General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Creating Accessible Congregations

General Assembly 2000 Event 425

Jacqui James of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Faith in Action staff and Rev. Jory Agate, Minister of Religious Education of First Church and Parish, Cambridge, MA, led a workshop introducing a program on accessibility. It is due to debut in the fall of 2000.

The General Assembly workshop was intended only to give the participants a taste of the full workshop. First, each of the participants briefly described their congregation's situation about accessibility issues. Most concerned the needs of those who could not climb stairs or who could not hear well. Many of the participants mentioned financial and attitudinal barriers to greater accessibility.

The presenters reviewed what disabilities are, and gave a litany, including physical, psychological, developmental, environmental, and other disabilities.

Jacqui James said it is better to speak of "disabilities" than "disability" because of the tendency to restrict the notion to those needing the help of wheelchairs and canes to the exclusion of others.

Invoking the "ghost of Tiny Tim," the presenters reviewed the perceptions of disabled persons from the Middle Ages to today. They then led the group through an informal accessibility audit.

The presenters then broke the audience in small groups to process real-life situations where a church could become more accessible to members with special needs. (Indeed, some of the situations were exactly ones known in the participants' congregations.) Asking the person, or the person's parents, was a commonly recommended action.

See the UUA Accessibility / Equal Access website for available resources.

Reported by Rev. Scott Wells.