Worship within a biblical, warm, and supportive community is a wonderful experience that God desires for all of us. Yet, as a person with a (vision) disability and a pastor, I’m aware of many barriers that make worship difficult or uncomfortable for people with disabilities. While a perfect worship setting does not exist, I hope that I can point out a few ways that a church can look at their physical space to enable a person with a disability to have a richer experience. The good news is that most steps towards becoming more accessible are simple and inexpensive. In fact, the most important investment is a sensitivity and curiosity into the experiences of those sitting in your pews.
Let’s take a walk together around your church.
What do you see?
For a person with a vision disability, this is a critical question. Is your sanctuary well lit? How about the projections - is there good contrast in color, and are the fonts large enough for easy reading?
Next look over your bulletins and church publications. Again, check the font size, contrast and color and spacing. It’s nice to list as much information as possible in a bulletin, but too much information can be confusing and difficult to read for someone with a vision disability.
What do you hear?
Consider what someone with hearing loss might not be hearing in your services. Nothing will cause a person to lose interest faster in the service than not being able to understand clearly what is going on. Their participation in worship will be greatly hindered.
Do the pastor and other speakers use a good quality microphone? Do the musicians sound clear or..... muddled like they’re performing under water? What technologies do you have available to help? Assistive Listening Devices can make a huge difference for the experience of those with hearing loss. Are these devices also available for Sunday school classrooms?
How easy is it to get around?
Consider the needs of those with physical disabilities. Does your church have accessible seating accommodations for individuals in wheelchairs or using a walker? Can those with a wheelchair or walker get onto your church stage?
What resources do your church already have?
Are there people within your church who have gifts that can be used to assist others who may need a little extra help during the service? Someone with the gift of patience and a love of children can be a "buddy" for a child with developmental disability so that the parents can remain in and focus on the service. The possibilities are endless!
Let’s serve one another by making our worship facilities a comfortable place for all to worship and praise the Lord!
Dan Longmore has been pastoring for over 20 years and has been at Marsh Creek Brethren in Christ Church of Howard, PA for nearly 12 years. Dan welcomes your comments, questions, and thoughts. Please visit the "Contact Us" link below to be connected with him.
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