Beyond the Building: Accessibility Guidelines
Be ours a religion which, like sunshine goes everywhere;
its temple, all space;
its shrine, the good heart;
its creed, all truth;
its ritual, works of love;
its profession of faith, divine living.
—Theodore Parker (Reading #683, Singing the Living Tradition)
Accessibility goes beyond the four walls of your building. Here are some other things to think about when you are on the journey toward making your faith community truly welcoming to everybody.
"VISITABILITY" is what accessibility in congregants' homes is called. Visitability is an often overlooked but vitally important accessibility issue. If you are truly seeking to be welcoming, all events and activities sponsored by your congregation must have an accessible site. If you have meetings or gatherings in people's houses, for example, covenant/chalice groups (small group ministry circles), then make sure to include a wheelchair-accessible home, or have at least one group meet at the church, or at another accessible location such as a community center, local retirement village, school, etc.
Create a local accessibility guide with wheelchair-friendly restaurants listed. Support these restaurants with your business and compliment them on their accessibility.
Evaluate the local public transportation for accessibility—learn if is there a separate/segregated paratransit system, or if the regular public transportation is accessible. If not, advocate for integrated accessible transportation that includes people with disabilities.
Add non-discriminatory language to your constitution and by-laws.
If you hold meetings in the community, insist that you hold meetings in accessible buildings. Plan meetings for accessibility. Registration materials for meetings and conferences should include an accessibility statement and space for registrants to state their accessibility needs.
Be an ally and an advocate for people with disabilities. Notice inaccessibility and make it a part of your congregation's social justice work, internally and externally..
Spread the "good news" about accessibility and hospitality to all people—including people with disabilities.
Learn about disability as a political and social justice issue rather than as a personal problem.
Educate and engage your congregation in anti-oppression work related to disability and accessibility.
Encourage sermons, talks, programs, education by people with disabilities, throughout the year.