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History made with Australia’s first accessible church service

29 September 2017

In an Australian first, a major Sydney church service is to be fully accessible for people who are blind or have low vision.

In partnership with Vision Australia, the Anglican Church of St James’ will give members of its congregation and the wider community who are blind or have low vision the opportunity to better experience the full liturgy of its service of Holy Communion.

Attendees who are blind or have low vision will be provided with audio description of the full proceedings of the service, as well as order of services and hymn sheets in braille. A tactile tour will also be available after the service to allow people who are blind or have low vision to explore the chalices, candles, incense and other items used during the service

Image shows the exterior of St James' Church
Michael Ward, Vision Australia National Coordinator of Audio Description, said his team is looking forward to tackling their first church service.

“Each year we provide audio description for hundreds of different plays, musicals, operas and other events across the country, but this is the first church service we’ve been involved in,” Mr Ward said.

“The church itself is a magnificent building and the service has a number of visual elements to it. Our audio describers are excited about being given the opportunity to bring all of that to life for people who are blind or have low vision,” he said.

Audio describers provide people who are blind or have low vision with succinct narration of the visual elements of a production such as clothing, movements and the surrounding environment. This complements the audio element of a production and is delivered live via small headset and receiver.

Images shows the St James' choir
With St James’ being Sydney’s oldest church and well renowned for its musical tradition, the church is keen to make accessibility a regular feature of its services.

Director of the St James Institute, Christopher Waterhouse said, ‘We look forward to making audio description a regular part of our church services on special occasions throughout the year.”

“Our church welcomes people of all ages, races, backgrounds, genders, beliefs and creeds. We strive to be a welcoming church that is inclusive and accessible to everyone. Even if you’ve never been to church before, we would love to welcome you to St James. Audio description is one of the ways we hope to make our services accessible to everyone.”

The accessible service will be held at the Anglican Church of St James’ on Sunday, 1 October at 11am.

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