Architecture, Attitudes, and Barriers
It is necessary for churches to be accessible both in their architecture and in their attitudes, and to be aware of other barriers that prevent people from full participation in church life. To this end, meeting planners may want to reference the Equal Access Guide for Meetings, Conferences, Large Assemblies, and Worship put out by the National Council of Churches. To ensure that your church is welcoming and accessible to all people, take the Accessibility Mini-Audit for Churches produced by the United Methodist Church.
If people cannot get in your door, you cannot minister to or with them. Of course, architectural accessibility is more than just getting through the door. People need to be able to participate in every aspect of church life.
Once people are through the door, they will not stay if they do not feel welcome. Beyond simply welcoming people with disabilities, the church must truly value them and be committed to fully including them in all aspects of church life.
People with disabilities can face a myriad of other barriers to their participation in church life beyond architecture and attitudes. Churches need to brainstorm possible barriers, but also be willing to ask the people around you and in your congregation what is preventing them from the fullness of participation in church life. This is not an exclusive list, but some questions to ask of your church are:
- Can everyone see?
- Do we make large print bulletins available for those with low eyesight?
- Can everyone hear what is going on in the service and, if not, is the same information being transmitted to them in some way?
- Is the church mostly free of chemicals and smells (including perfumes) that could irritate those with asthma, as well as others?