The Body of Christ cannot be complete until all people are accepted into communities of faith. However, a welcome sign outside the church is not enough. The sign may say, "Welcome," but the steps may say, "You must be able to walk up stairs to enter." The advertisement in the newspaper may say, "All are welcome," but in reality you have to hear well and see well to participate fully. Before churches can become truly welcoming communities for persons with disabilities, church facilities, procedures, and the ways in which we communicate must be evaluated and made accessible.
An accessibility audit is a list of items that your congregation can use to evaluate its accessibility. Conducting such an audit does not guarantee compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, building codes, or other legal requirements, but one can be used to get a program underway and alert you to potential problems. Structural modifications should be made in consultation with an architect or engineer. It's also a good idea — and surprisingly rarely thought of — to have some people with disabilities review your plans. This will help ensure that they really work!
We offer a disability and accessibility audit to help your congregation assess its strengths and weaknessess. This audit is intended for annual use as part of charge conference preparation. It covers physical layout and facilties as well as communication, welcoming, and worship practices.
Through UMCOR, the United Methodist Church offers an extensive audit of facilities, features, and programs. This extensive audit includes background information and references.
The church also offers a mini-audit. Primarily focused on physical facilities and signage, it includes some material on worship welcoming and resources.
Here are several other sites that offer audits and checklists on accessibility:
- Joni and Friends Accessibility Checklist
- Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod Disability Ministry Assessment Tool
- Mennonite Church Congregational Accessibility Network
Here are places that offer technical assistance:
- National Council on Independent Living. An Independent Living Center (ILC) is a non-residential, not-for-profit, community-based agency which provides core services of independent living — advocacy, skills training, information and referral and peer counseling. ILCs began in the early 1970s as part of the Independent Living Movement, a rights movement for people with disabilities. The first ILC was created by university students as a response to the need for practical housing and personal assistance services needed to live in their communities.
- Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC). DBTAC is a national network of 10 regional centers that provide the most complete and experienced services for up-to-date information, referrals, resources, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to businesses, employers, government entities, and individuals with disabilities, as well as media and news reporters. DBTAC can also be contacted by voice telephone or TTY at 800-949-4232.
- United States Access Board is a federal agency committed to accessible design that provides technical assistance and training on accessible design.
Technical assistance: weekdays 10-5:30 EST (Wed 10-2)
202.272.0080(v) 202.272.0082(TTY) 202.272.0081(fax)
— July 2012