Fellowship & Meeting Rooms: Accessibility Guidelines

Though all else we scoff
Coffee the communion
We come to church for coffee;
Of our Uni-Union
If we're late to congregate
Symbol of our sacred ground,
We come in time for thee.
Our one necessity.
Coffee our one ritual
Feel the holy power
Drinking it habitual,
At our coffee hour,
Brewed black by perk or drip or instantly.
Brewed black by perk or drip or instantly.
—Rev. C. Raible, "Coffee, Coffee, Coffee," from The Communion Book by Carl Seaburg

Social hour can be embarrassing for someone with memory problems as they try to have conversations with other people whose names they have forgotten. If everybody wears name tags (names in large print) it spares embarrassment to those who cannot remember names.

Poor room acoustics in hard-walled fellowship halls and classrooms can make it very difficult for people who have hearing problems. Sound bounces off flat walls. When the room is too noisy, people raise their voices. The louder they talk, the louder everybody else has to talk. Wall coverings, such as banners, flags, posters and bulletin boards, drape, carpet, bookcases, furniture, paintings—anything you put on or against the walls will break up the sound reflection.

Assistive listening systems in the sanctuary do not help people during small meetings. But there is a product, Williams Pocketalker that can be very helpful for hard of hearing people who want to participate in social hour, in meetings or during classes.

Milling people and running children can be hazardous for people who are not steady on their feet. Conversation nooks with chairs can be helpful for people who have difficulty standing for long periods of time or who have balance problems. Or scatter tables and chairs around the room for people to use.

If there are Deaf people in your congregation, sign language interpreters during social hour make welcoming, comfortable, conversation possible.

When setting rooms up for meetings or classes, keep wheelchair accessibility in mind, as well as arranging for seating for people who have limited vision or hearing. Make sure that aisles are wide enough and that there is a variety of seating options—chairs with and without arms, room at tables for wheelchairs, etc.

Have seating spaced so there is extra legroom for people using crutches, braces, walkers, or who are wearing casts.

In your registration materials, make sure to promote your accessibility.

Larger print documents are easy to create. Meeting minutes, agendas, and hand-outs should be available in larger print.

Sign language interpreters should be made available if there are people in meetings who communicate using sign language.

Activities should be adaptable so that nobody is left out of icebreakers, small group activities. Be thoughtful at meetings to select activities that do not require standing, walking, reading small print, etc.

Many magic markers have strong scents that can be troublesome for people with chemical sensitivities. Use low-odor magic markers on your flip-charts and white boards (available at office supply stores).

Keep in mind that not everybody drives, and not everybody can drive at night. Arrange for carpools. If your congregation has mass transit nearby, plan meetings to match bus/train schedules.