Regional report from Alsace – Lorraine (France) Dec. 2014

In our regional church of Alsace – Lorraine the Pastoral Care among Hard of Hearing is a part of the general Pastoral Care among Disabled People. It was started in the sixties by lay people, initiated by the leader at Liebfrauenberg. Twice a year, each time for four days, hard of hearing people gather at the House of the Church at Liebfrauenberg. Normally retired pastors are in response for these gatherings. The house of the Church is well equipped for gatherings ofm oving impaired, hard of hearing and blind people (There are two conference rooms and a chapel, all with induction loops).

The attendants at these har of hearing meetings (We are normally some 15 to 25 persons, mostly elderly people) highly appreciate the meetings. They provide the possibility toget away from the loneliness, which is a consequence of not hearing well, and to have a good time together. We also do Bible works, and lectures about themes wished by the attendants play an important role.

An expert (ORL– Otorhinolaryngologist) gives a lecture about why people become hard of hearing. And even the most recent technological aids are presented by representatives Otikon, Siemens, Bernafon… The question about understanding each other better, is discussed as well.

We give information about the new legislation of Universal Accessibility. From 2015 all public buildings in France, giving space for 25 or more persons, are supposed to be accessible to wheel chair users and blind, and they shall be equipped for hard of hearing as well. If construction works or adaption have not started yet, there must at least be handed in a plan and a cost estimate no later than theb eginning of 2015. The persons or board in charge then have a limit of three to five years before the works must be completed. Whether or not, however, it is possible to impose Universal Accessibility everywhere, is a very touchy question, especially in old buildings and buildings listed for memorial protection. Still it is a large step in favour of disabled people on the national level, and churches are included in this program, or should at least use the opportunity to do their best in order to improve their activities towards and together with their disabled members.

Emile Steiner, retired pastor, responsible for Pastoral Care among Hard of Hearing