Alarming Growth in Numbers of those with Disabilities Leaves Major Care Gap

Global Access Conference to Help Address Concerns, Train Workers

AGOURA HILLS, Calif., Oct. 16, 2014 – Recognizing the need is greater than ever before for individuals to serve the disability community, Joni Eareckson Tada, founder of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, believes the timing is perfect for the organization’s upcoming Global Access Conference to be held in southern California Feb. 17-20, 2015.

In our fast-paced culture, the American family is experiencing mounting pressures from all sides – but none more critically than special-needs families,” Tada said. “Recent statistics show now that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum; Alzheimer’s disease continues unabated, affecting more American families every year; people are surviving more catastrophic injuries; and depression and suicide rates among young people with disabilities are sounding an alarm in the educational and medical establishment.”

“The safe haven of the U.S. Church is urgently required, but many pastors and Christian leaders feel ill-equipped to fully minister to people who are affected by disability,” Tada continued. “The Global Access 2015 Conference is designed to encourage and equip individuals at the local level to serve in this field, and to learn how they can make a difference in what can seem an overwhelming situation.”

For example, just two of the issues bringing about this overwhelming need are mental disabilities among teens, and an aging population more prone to Alzheimer’s disease. A study in the Journal of American Child and Adolescent Psyhcology showed there is a 46.3 percent chance that a 13-to-18 year old will experience some sort of mental illness in his or her lifetime; the CDC reports suicide as the third leading cause of death among adolescents and teenagers; and the National Alliance on Mental Illness states that 90 percent of those who die by suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness such as  depression, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia and alcoholism or drug addiction. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, of Americans aged 65 and older, 1 in 9 has Alzheimer’s; 1 in 3 people aged 85 and older has the disease. Another American develops Alzheimer’s disease every 67 seconds, and by 2050, an American will develop the disease every 33 seconds.

The theme of the Global Access Conference, “Where Disabilities and Possibilities Meet,” communicates the encouraging nature of the sessions along with the opportunity for individuals to meet with and learn from others involved in this field.

“In each and every community around the U.S., there are individuals who feel drawn to serving those with disabilities, but fear their own inadequacies or lack of information,” said conference organizer and Joni and Friends vice president Steve Bundy. “Global Access is designed just for them – to give them the tools and confidence they need to succeed in serving their individual church or community. We know that thinking locally – one person or disability at a time – can lead to global change when we all get involved.”

The conference will bring together disability leaders, ministers, educators and practitioners to share experiences, forge relationships and learn how to practically and effectively promote disability ministry in the Christian community.

Four thought-provoking tracks will be offered during the conference:

  • Leadership development and biblical counseling
  • Ministry in sensitive cultural contexts
  • Mission and disability ministry
  • Technology and disability

The conference runs Tuesday evening, Feb. 17, through Friday evening, Feb. 20, at Calvary Community Church, 5495 Via Rocas, Westlake Village, Calif. Registration is $299, which includes all sessions as well as lunch, dinner, snacks and beverages during the conference and transportation from pre-arranged hotels. More information is available online at www.globalaccessconference.org.

In addition to Tada, conference speakers include: Doug Mazza, President and Chief Operating Officer of Joni and Friends; Nick Vujicic, international speaker and founder of Life Without Limbs; Dr. Charles Ware, President of Crossroads Bible College; Dr. Joseph D’Souza, International President of the Dalit Freedom Network; Dr. Eddy Bazin, pastor of Delmas Christian Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Lon Solomon, senior pastor at McLean Bible Church; international missionary and speaker Bernadette Todd; and full-time painter and speaker Hyatt Moore, former president of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

For 35 years, Joni and Friends has worked to accelerate ministry to the disability community around the world, offering a wide array of life-affirming ministries, including the Christian Institute on Disability; the International Disability Center; international radio and television programs filled with inspirational stories; Wheels for the World, which every year gives thousands of individuals wheelchairs and the life-giving message of the Gospel; and Family Retreats, where families affected by disability learn they are not alone.

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Note to Editors: For more information or to arrange an interview with Joni and Friends representatives, please contact Melany Ethridge of A. Larry Ross Communications at 972.267.1111, or melany@alarryross.com