By Jamie Pauls, AccessWorld Author

For many of us, attending regular religious services is an important part of our lives. Some of us have family or friends who take us to and from church, while others either walk, use public transportation, or avail themselves of transportation provided by their faith community. Some churches, mosques, or synagogues have access to a lot of resources and provide alternative online worship experiences for those who are, for whatever reason, unable to physically attend services. Other smaller institutions, however, have traditionally made much less use of the Internet to provide outreach ministries.

Recent circumstances have caused all places of worship to rethink how they minister to their congregants as well as those who may not engage in regular worship. As blind people, it is important during these times of self-isolation to have the same access to online worship as our sighted counterparts. Below are some considerations that may help.

First, be aware that your church may just be getting their feet wet when it comes to live streaming. My church has posted sermons on Facebook and YouTube for the entire time I've been attending, but they have only started live streaming their services in the past two weeks. I personally find YouTube to be a bit easier to navigate than Facebook, so I have chosen to take advantage of my church's YouTube live stream.

My church also just recently launched a new app. My sighted wife couldn't find the live stream on the church's app, and she confirmed with a friend that it wasn't there at all. Had I tried to use the app first, I might have concluded that there was an accessibility issue with the app when in fact this would not have been the case at all. Don't hesitate to let someone at your church know if you are having trouble accessing their content, but be cognizant of the fact that they may be new to thinking about accessibility. After all, they are not a large company with an engineering staff trained to be aware of the needs of the disabled community.

The church I attend uses Subsplash as the platform for its new online presence, so I will probably want to talk to someone from that company regarding my accessibility concerns rather than my local church staff. Some churches will only use one or two formats such as Facebook and YouTube, while others will offer multiple ways to access their services including their own dedicated app and live stream links on their websites.

There are literally thousands of people providing words of faith and encouragement online during these uncertain times, so a search using words such as "overcoming fear" is bound to provide you with many relevant discussion topics.

Even though you may be physically alone during these tough times, words of encouragement and comfort are only a click away. Remember to share any words of true encouragement with those you care about. They are probably struggling just like you.