A Guide to Increasing Accessibility In Your Church Sanctuary
When it comes to growing your church, it’s important to think about improving the accessibility of your building and services. Lots of different types of people are looking for a church that is thriving, and the more you make space for everyone who might want to attend, the more you’ll be able to impress congregants with your consideration and compassion.
So what do you need to change in order to make sure your church is fully accessible? Here are some ideas to help you assess what you currently offer and what you’ll need to change.
1. Accessing the building.
The first step to making sure someone with a disability can attend your services is to ensure that they can access the building. Analyze your parking lot. Do you have handicapped spaces close to the door? Do you have enough spaces? Look at your curbing and sidewalks. Are they safe and do they offer an easy way for someone in a wheelchair to access them? Make sure your door isn’t blocked by stairs and that it has a handicapped button for automatic opening. If there are stairs, make sure to build a ramp that is safe and accessible.
Also, consider how those with disabilities might get to your services. Investigate public transportation or other kinds of services, then make sure that info is readily available on your website and in your information center in the building.
2. Getting around inside.
Once disabled visitors safely enter your building, make sure that there is a clear and easy path for them to get to the sanctuary. Remove furniture that is in the way and make sure that the hallways are wide and clear. Improve the doors that open to the sanctuary, making sure anyone can open them, regardless of their ability status.
Ensure that your restrooms have handicap accessible stalls. Provide snacks and coffee at a level that anyone can reach. Walk through your building, pretending to be in a wheelchair or with any other disability. Carefully look for aspects that could be dangerous or a barrier to movement. If there’s more than one floor to your building, consider how disabled members will get to other floors. Look into the possibility of installing an elevator.
3. Make your sanctuary accessible.
Plan out your seating aisles so that anyone can get through easily. Designate spots in the front of your seating or in specific places throughout the seating where someone in a wheelchair could fit into the row. Consider where you could invite those who are blind or deaf to sit where they will have the best view or ability to hear, depending on their needs.
Be certain that your flooring is non-slip and commercial grade. If you have a stage that those in wheelchairs will need to access, consider building a ramp or installing another feature that will help them safely get to the stage.
4. Improve your service setup.
Consider the way you create your service on Sunday and how it might be a challenge for someone that is disabled. Sit in various spots throughout the audience to check for the ability to see the projector screen and speaker. If you need to upgrade your audio/visual technology so that everyone can hear and see clearly, this would be an excellent reason to do so. Include captioning on your slides and remind speakers to talk clearly and at an appropriate volume. Find an interpreter for the deaf, and have them interpret every Sunday or at least be on call if needed. Be conscientious of the way you create activities or interactions during the meeting so you don’t leave out those who aren’t as able-bodied.
Stay Open to Learning
In your efforts to improve your accessibility, always be looking for tips and ideas, but also ask for feedback. Take those criticisms and that feedback seriously, then incorporate what you can into your building and services. Sometimes it’s just nice to ask what someone needs and you might learn something you’d not been aware of before. Accessibility is an important part of growing your congregation and improving the diversity of your member base, so don’t take this issue lightly. Reach out, make an effort, and ensure that everyone has access to fellowship no matter what challenges they face.
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