Accessible Community has been working with churches to find affordable ways to improve access to religious services for individuals with disabilities. We believe the lessons we’ve learned can be applied in most faith communities to begin improving accessibility.
Accessible Community also provides free content, tools, training, and other resources to assist. If you would like to talk with us about next steps, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Designate someone within your organization as responsible for supporting people with disabilities. All disability-related requests should go to this individual. Everyone who works with the public should know who that is and how to reach him or her during services and other public events. One of this person’s tasks should be to document and share access solutions for your organization.
- Evaluate your physical spaces for wheelchair and walker accessibility. Think about how your space is used. When part of the space is not currently accessible, plan work-arounds until it can be improved. For example, create a plan to switch classes around if needed or mark places where people with wheelchairs can sit with their families.
- Load accessible, digital copies of services, programs, announcements, lyrics, etc. into a single location that the public can access if given a link (Google Drive works well). This is an easy way to help meet requests for support, such as access to the program for someone who needs large text or text-to-speech.
- Plan to support the Deaf community and individuals with hearing impairments:
- Contract with a sign language interpreter who can provide support services remotely and in-person when requested.
- Consider purchasing a tablet that can connect to zoom or another remote service and a carrier to hold it on the back of the seat in front of a Deaf attendee as a way to meet quick turnaround request. The same tablet can be used with the digital content from the prior step to support other individuals’ access needs.
- If you create videos of services or activities, take the time to create high quality captions. YouTube allows you to do this fairly easily.
- Plan to support families who have children with cognitive and learning disabilities. Do you have a buddy system in place or a quiet room to rest in, away from noise and activity? Some places have a room set aside that can be used to stream services when families need to step away. Other places have headphones available to borrow if needed.
- Continue on your journey to engage people with disabilities in your faith community through continuing education and by working with individuals with disabilities. A common phase in the disability community is “Nothing about us, without us.” Listen and work together to solve access challenges.
- Congregational Accessibility Network (CAN) This overarching resource promotes the inclusion of persons with disabilities in faith communities and includes additional resources for each faith.
- Joni and Friends Provides resources and training to help churches welcome all people, including those with disabilities, into church life and ministry.
- Key Ministry Key Ministry promotes meaningful connection between churches and families of kids with disabilities for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
- LifeWay Special Needs resources including bible studies for children and adults with learning disabilities.
- Mental Health and the Church (book) by Stephen Grcevich. This book presents strategies for ministering to children, teens, and adults with mental health conditions as well as to their families.
- Pure Ministry A network of individuals, churches, and organizations working with families affected by disability need support and encouragement. The PURE Ministries Network provides this support along with practical tips, advice, and collaboration.
- respectAbility This resource provides Disability Access and Inclusion Training Series for Jewish Organizations and Activists
- Synagogue self assessment A short, printable checklist from the Jewish Federation of Greater Midwest NJ
- Muhsen: Muslims Understanding and Helping Special Education Needs includes a certification program and checklist for inclusion.