Inclusive Christmas: MVAC hosts Auslan-interpreted Road to Bethlehem for Deaf community

The session had Auslan interpreters throughout the entire program. [Photo credit: Tania Gonzalez]

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An Auslan-interpreted session of Road to Bethlehem made it possible for Deaf individuals to first experience the walk-through dramatisation of the story of Jesus’ birth. Held at Mountain View Adventist College (MVAC) in Sydney on November 26, the inclusive initiative was a partnership between Christian Services for the Blind & Hearing Impaired (CSBHI) and MVAC.

The 7pm session, especially tailored for the Deaf community, included seven adults and five children, ranging from young families to retirees. Among them was a deaf-blind woman who engaged with the event through her senses of touch and smell, particularly enjoying the free petting zoo. “She expressed how the experience brought to life the stories she had read in her braille Bible,” said CSFBHI coordinator Coralie Schofield.

The idea for the initiative came from Greater Sydney Conference intern pastor Jessica Stekla, who connected with the Deaf community through her pastoral work. “It was a perfect way to bridge the gap between the church and the Deaf community, especially during a universally celebrated event like Christmas,” she said.

Run alongside a regular group, the Auslan-interpreted session was also an opportunity to bring awareness. “It was likely the first exposure for many people to meeting a Deaf person before,” said Mrs Stekla.

According to her, the regular group became more aware of the adjustments made for the Deaf group as the session progressed. “I noticed the group becoming more mindful of them each time to accommodate for a standing area to the side, making sure they could all see the interpreter while moving around each location.”

“Hopefully, seeing this in action can inspire people from the Adventist community to learn more about the opportunities we have in reaching an otherwise unreached population and even looking into learning some Auslan for themselves!” she added.

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