Accessibility and Inclusion
Accessibility is an appropriate starting point in thinking about how the church relates to persons with all types of disabilities.
Often when the word “accessible” is used, people think of ramps and elevators. While these features make a building accessible to persons in wheelchairs, there are many other factors in both buildings and the communities that use those buildings which can cause barriers to persons with a variety of disabilities.
A community of faith will go beyond just conforming to legal guidelines such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. As people of faith, we believe that an accessible congregation does two things:
- First, it creates an environment which welcomes all people regardless of abilities or disabilities.
- Secondly, develops and communicates an attitude of ever-increasing awareness, knowledge, acceptance, and inclusion.
We have come to see the word “inclusion” as a more all-encompassing term to express our goal. It may be possible to technically conform to all of the “accessibility” guidelines presented by ADA, CAN, or any other criteria, and still not convey a welcoming attitude towards all persons with disabilities by which they will feel included.
As persons of faith, this becomes a spiritual issue. All human beings are made in the image of God. We believe that God loves and values all persons. So as persons of faith, we are called to value and accept others as well. As we allow God’s Spirit to overcome the prejudice, hate, and fear that often creep into our reality, we work with God to create a new reality in which mercy, justice, peace, and right relationships prevail.
God’s intention is for all of us to live in communities where such values prevail. Our faith communities are to be models for the society as a whole. That is the goal of the Congregational Accessibility Network.