Unintended barriers in church buildings or programs often keep people with disabilities from participating in church life as much as they would like. To people not living with disability, these obstacles may be invisible and overlooked. An accessibility audit or survey is a way to bring invisible barriers into our attention so they may be minimized.
Excellent survey tools designed especially for churches are available to expand awareness and prepare the way for modifying church facilities and programs for greater hospitality. Although an elevator can be expensive, many modifications cost little or nothing.
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.
The Congregational Accessibility Network offers a series of tools for surveying both needs for access by church members and the congregation's physical facilities and programs. The site also offers strategies for congregational decision-making that can bring the intentions of greater hospitality to fruition. CAN was developed as a project of Anabaptist Disabilities Network and became an independent organization in 2011.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief has developed the most thorough audit we know of for evaluating church facilities, grounds, communications, and practices for unrecognized barriers. They also offer a mini-audit. The audit includes links to provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act and manufacturers of recommended products.
United Church of Christ Audit
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 accessiblity project. This 50-page guide from the Retirement Research Foundation, is designed to help congregations plan and implement renovations for improved accessibility.