Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A wheelchair or stroller
- Pads of sticky notes in two colors, preferably red (stop) and green (go), small notebooks, and pencils or pens
- Optional: Newsprint, markers, and tape
Preparation for Activity
- Check with others who use different parts of your congregation's building(s) during your religious education time. Ask whether the group may come through and talk briefly and quietly among themselves.
- Separate sticky notes into multiple pads for a few volunteers to carry on the walk.
- Invite a member of your congregation's board or another person in a position of authority, such as the minister or the chair of your building and grounds committee, to tour the building with you after the audit to take note of the group's observations. If this is not possible directly following this activity or session, arrange it for another time.
Description of Activity
Explain to participants that you will do an accessibility audit of your congregation. You may say:
An audit is like a check-up. Our accessibility audit will look at how well our congregation is doing at welcoming people with different abilities and disabilities. A disability might include loss of mobility, as for Christopher Reeve or a person who is using crutches. It could also include hearing loss, loss of vision, loss of balance, and more.
Ask the children to brainstorm some disabilities people might have. Then, brainstorm some clues the children might look for to find out how welcoming your congregation is for people with disabilities. If you have posted newsprint, write down the clues. You may suggest: stairs; bathrooms too small for a wheelchair to enter; light switches and drinking fountains too high to reach from a wheelchair; high door thresholds; small print on orders of service and hymnbooks; or loud conditions in a social hall that prevent people using hearing aids from holding conversations.
Explain to the group that you will be taking a tour of your congregation's building(s) to look for ways that full participation in your congregation is and is not available to people with disabilities. Show the sticky notes and notebooks. Say:
If we see something that shows our congregation has made an effort to fully include people with disabilities, mark it with a green (or other designated color) sticky note - for example, a wheel chair lift, an assistive listening device, a ramp, or an accessible bathroom. (You may need to explain briefly what some of these devices are.)
If we see something that might keep someone from fully participating in our congregation, we will mark it with a red (or other designated color) sticky note.
Everything we mark with a sticky note, we also will write down in a notebook. Then we will share our audit with (name of person, if someone from congregational leadership is joining you), someone who can help us make a difference.
Ask for volunteers to carry sticky notes, one or more notebooks, and pencils or pens. Gather the group and tour the congregational facility together.
It will be helpful if someone in the group takes part in the audit from a wheelchair. If a wheelchair is not available, you can have a group member push a full-sized stroller; any threshold, curb, or stair that requires picking up a stroller to proceed would probably be inaccessible to a person in a wheelchair.
Your experience will be most meaningful if, after the group has completed the audit, a member of your congregation's board of trustees, or another congregational leader, such as the minister or head of the building and grounds committee, walks the route again, with the group. Allow children to point out the issues they have noted. Collect the sticky notes and provide these with the audit notes to share with an adult committee. If possible, invite the adult to return to the group another time and report on action the children's audit has sparked.
Including All Participants
Participants who have disabilities or have a family member with a disability may have extra insight into accessibility issues. However, do not put any child on the spot. Besides putting a child in a potentially awkward position, electing a "disability spokesperson" simplifies the fact that disabilities vary widely, and diminishes the responsibility each person in a community has to use their empathy to make sure all are welcomed.