Getting Started with Church Accessibility

When you’re just getting started with church accessibility, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed. It can be hard to know where to begin. Here are some ideas to make church more accessible for people with disabilities both right away and within your first year of working toward church accessibility.  

What you can do to improve your church’s accessibility right now

Measure your church’s accessibility. Conduct an accessibility audit of your church building and programs. Assess the accessibility of the most common church-wide activities, such as Sunday worship. How fully does each element of these experiences allow everyone to participate? Are there adjustments your church could make to be more inclusive? 

Ideas to make your church more accessible in the first month

Connect with others in your church who have the same passion. If you do not identify as having a disability, be an advocate with people who have disabilities, not just an advocate for them; as self-advocates like to say, “Nothing about us without us.” Also, connect with church disability advocates in your area, such as Friendship Group leaders, parachurch ministries that serve or advocate with people with disabilities, and with disability support groups.
Assess the accessibility of the most common church-wide activities, such as Sunday worship. How fully does each element of these experiences allow everyone to participate? Are there adjustments your church could make to be more inclusive? 

 

Example: if your leaders use the phrase “please stand” during worship, consider other ways of phrasing this that place less emphasis on physical ability or lack of it (for example, “You’re invited to rise in body or in spirit”).

Make an appointment with your pastor to discuss how your church can best include people with disabilities. At this meeting, propose one to three opportunities to improve access to full church life for people with disabilities. Ask if a disability awareness worship service can be scheduled some time during the year. A disability awareness service can feature the ministry of people with disabilities, emphasize the importance of accessibility, and speak to the biblical/theological basis for inclusion. 
Grow your awareness through newsletters. Explore mailings or newsletters related to disability advocacy and awareness to see if they would be helpful for your church to receive. Breaking Barriers is an example.

Ideas to make your church more accessible in the first year

Ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to hold service and leadership roles in your church. If you are not sure if someone will be successful in a role, start by assuming ability, understanding their gifts, and then working with that person to address any barriers that may arise.
Provide large-print worship resources, such as bulletins, PowerPoint slides, Bibles, or songbooks for people with visual impairments. Consider American Sign Language interpreters or captions for persons who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Everybody Belongs, Serving Together is a collaboration of RCA and CRCNA Disability Concerns, Christian Horizons, and Elim Christian Services.

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