The Role of a Church Disability Advocate or Accessibility Coordinator
By identifying a disability champion in your congregation—whether you call that person a “Disability Advocate,” “Accessibility Coordinator,” or something else—you’re taking a first step toward welcoming people with disabilities and their families into full participation in the body of Christ.
One in five people has a disability, which means one in five Christians has a disability. That’s a lot of people who a disability advocate can help your church to be better prepared to welcome, to disciple, to learn from, and to elevate as leaders. A disability advocate can certainly be someone with a disability, but doesn’t have to be. Often people with disabilities have been forced into the role of self-advocacy for much of their lives. They should never be expected to coordinate or advocate for accessibility alone.
The goal of a disability advocate
A disability advocate develops eyes to see the needs and gifts of people with disabilities in your church and helps others do the same. Usually that starts with the needs of the people who are already part of your congregation. But it also means anticipating future needs so you’re ready to welcome people who are looking for a church home. It also means that you’ll be ready to support people in your congregation when they acquire disabilities down the road.
What a disability advocate does
As time, talents, and opportunities permit, disability advocates might be involved in the following activities:
- Identifying the needs of church members with disabilities and working with appropriate church leaders and volunteers to meet these needs.
- Advocating for the adoption of a disability policy by church leaders and assisting in its implementation.
- Encouraging the full experience of belonging with people with disabilities in the life of the church so that their God-given abilities are utilized fully.
- Assisting people with disabilities and their families to find resources for counseling, advocacy, and other agencies that provide information and legal and financial support, including support from governmental sources where appropriate.
- Participating in relevant training opportunities.
- Offering helpful resources, including distribution of appropriate newsletters and other publications.
Everybody Belongs, Serving Together is a collaboration of RCA and CRCNA Disability Concerns, Christian Horizons, and Elim Christian Services.
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