Making Church Work for Those With Physical Disabilities [Main Story]
hildren and adults with physical disabilities face many challenges in attending church and being a part of every facet of congregational life. Many of the older sanctuary buildings that house our congregations are in need of a serious retrofit to make them accessible to members using wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, or canes. The following collection of tips is excerpted from Joni and Friends’ Special Needs Smart Pages: Advice, Answers & Articles About Ministering to Children With Special Needs:
• Your church building and facility may have some limitations that make accommodating wheelchair users difficult. By making the changes below, your church can meet those needs and show that you value all those who want to contribute to the body of Christ.
• Reserve parking spaces for those with mobility difficulties.
• Make level or add a ramp to all internal and external doorways.
• Keep a few seats reserved near the entrance to the worship center as an easy-access section for families who have a wheelchair-using member and who wish to sit together. But do not put all the wheelchair users in one area, because this highlights their disability.
• Provide wheelchair users with printed copies of slides used during worship services (displays of lyrics, the pastor’s message, etc.). Screens used to display these sorts of things are often hidden from the view of wheelchair users.
• Ensure that wheelchair-accessible restrooms have space to maneuver and are never used for storage.
• Sit down or crouch so that you are on the same eye level when talking with anyone in a wheelchair. This will make eye contact easier.
• Do not lean on someone’s wheelchair, and never attempt to move it without the user’s permission. Remember, the wheelchair is part of the user’s personal space.
• Teach other children not to push a wheelchair unless the user asks them to do so.