A Theological Reason for Accessibility
Accessibility is a new name for the very old practice of hospitality. Beginning with the book of Genesis and running through the entire Bible, the practice of hospitality is assumed and required for God’s people. The book of Ruth and Luke's parable of the Good Samaritan urge us to expand our definitions of neighbor – those with whom God calls us to share hospitality.
Even though religious activities may be exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), providing access to church buildings and programs is a crucial first step to offering a hospitable welcome to all who might want to be part of the Body of Christ.
Why audit accessibility?
For people living with disability, barriers in the church building or programs sometimes get in the way of participating fully in church life. These obstacles might be easy to remove, but they are often invisible to people who don't have a disability.
An accessibility audit or survey offers a way to bring these invisible barriers into full view so they can be addressed. ADN offers two survey tools designed especially for churches to expand awareness and prepare the way for modifying church facilities and programs for greater hospitality.
ADN's Congregational Assessment Survey is a tool intended to help your congregation assess its level of accessibility to people with various disabilities, including mental illness. Our two goals are to celebrate progress you are already making and to provide additional suggestions to increase your accessibility.
A one-page, "entry level" audit for congregations just beginning to examine their accessibility. This is a great place to start if an extensive audit sounds too intimidating to tackle.
Once you have completed your first audit and responded to the issues it raises, consider making it an annual practice and stepping up your efforts by employing one of the more comprehensive audit tools below.
A Technical Guide for Accessibility in Houses of Worship. A handbook rather than an audit, this older resource (2003) still offers helpful guidance for congregations considering an accessibility project. This 50-page guide from the Retirement Research Foundation is designed to help congregations plan and implement renovations for improved accessibility.