photo of Amanda Thomas

JFS Focuses on Accessibility and Inclusion

February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month (JDAIM), a unified effort among Jewish organizations to raise awareness and foster acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities. This year, Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley (JFS) partnered with PJ Library and Parkland High School’s American Sign Language Club to educate young Jewish children about American Sign Language, as well as Deaf culture.

Even though February is when we direct attention to education and learning about disabilities, Amanda Thomas, Ph.D., Accessibility and Inclusion Coordinator, spends the other eleven months continuing to educate the community agencies on accessibility and inclusion.

Here are a few highlights from the past year:

JFS collaborated with synagogues and community agencies to cultivate inclusive practices through professional development and to assist in creating feasible steps to achieve their inclusion goals. For example, Temple Beth El’s marketing staff was trained on digital accessibility. “Disability awareness training helps create a higher understanding in which we can create an inclusive environment,” Michelle Rohrbach said upon completing the training. “It will help those individuals who feel alienated when participating in events.” In addition, Temple Beth El’s religious school received training on disability awareness and inclusive practices.

The JFS Accessibility and Inclusion Committee meets on a quarterly basis to serve as a resource for advocacy and education of inclusive practices of people with disabilities and the LGBTQIA community. The committee plays an integral role in education of inclusion for the High Holidays and JDAIM.

JFS recognized that an inaccessible website excludes visitors just as much as an inaccessible physical location. It was a priority that everyone be able to access the website under the guidelines of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The new JFS website was developed and coded to ensure proper navigation of text, organization of content, color contrast, and alternative text for images. The new website supports the use of assistive technology (i.e., screen readers, screen magnifiers, voice recognition software) and adaptive strategies (i.e., increasing text size, changing colors). Having an accessible website benefits everyone, with and without disabilities. You are invited to visit us at

What to expect this year?

In addition to education and training, JFS has started a Parent Support Group for parents/caregivers of adult children with disabilities (18-40 years old). This group will be co-facilitated by JFS staff members Laura Garber, LCSW, and Amanda Thomas, Ph.D., accessibility and inclusion coordinator. If you are interested in learning more about the Parent Support Group, please email Amanda Thomas,