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New platform offers digital community for those with special needs

The Orthodox Union’s (OU) Yachad, a group for individuals with disabilities in the Orthodox community, has launched “Yachad On Demand,” a new digital platform for those with special needs to communicate during these times when personal interactions are being stymied in light of the spread of COVID-19.

Yachad On Demand offers a plethora of virtual programming, including online support groups, Partners in Torah, educational materials and events – such as cooking demonstrations, shiurim, pre-Shabbat schmoozes, games etc. The Yachad IVDU school system and their dayhab programs have continued online with all-day virtual classes and programming. An online buddy system has launched on the site as well.

Yachad is hosting weekly live programs through Zoom and Facebook Live, including shiurim, cooking shows, hangouts, exercise classes and support groups. Other offerings will include small group and personal chats as well as a video library on YouTube. 

“While we all feel the impact of social distancing, it is particularly challenging for those with special needs who heavily rely upon in-person interconnection,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin. “Yachad On Demand offers them the face-to-face interaction while following social distancing protocols. The technology allows us the opportunity to create programming tailored for their benefit.”

Additionally, Yachad partnered with Sruly.org and Moxtra to create a safe and secure instant messaging platform for individuals with developmental disabilities to connect and foster personal relationships with pre-assigned “buddies” who have been vetted. The application is accessible from computers, phones and tablets and currently has more than 350 users.

For more information about Yachad On Demand, visit yachad.org/yachadodemand

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