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As a result of spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, polio, aging, and a variety of disabling conditions, 1.4 million people in the U.S. use wheelchairs or scooters. Other people with mobility impairments such as paralysis, muscle weakness, low stamina, poor coordination, nerve damage, or stiff joints, use crutches, walkers, braces, or canes to help them get around.
People may use different mobility aids at different times. Someone who uses a wheelchair or scooter may also be able to move about without assistance—another person may not be able to. Someone who uses a cane or walker one day, may use a wheelchair on another day. Do not make assumptions about a person's mobility.
Ramps, elevators, automatic doors, lowered (or raised) desks, tables, or countertops, lowered (or raised) water fountains, curb cuts, and parking that is flat and close to the entrance are some examples that create an atmosphere that is environmentally welcoming and accessible to someone with mobility limitations.
- Etiquette for Use with People Who Have Mobility Impairments
A complete environmental assessment/audit of your congregational campus will help you decide how to welcome people with mobility limitations.
Your local Independent Living Center may be able to answer your questions and/or help assess your campus.
Remember, everyone whether they live with a disability or not, is unique. Therefore, it is impossible to make universal statements about what will feel completely welcoming to everyone. As with all reciprocal relationships, it is always important and appropriate to ask the people being welcomed what will work for them.
Until you know someone with a mobility impairment, you may never have had any need to think about the key points that make relationships with someone who has mobility limitations easier and more relaxed. With the intent to create a welcoming and relaxed environment for everyone, here are some ground rules we should all keep in mind.