How to Conduct an Accessibility Audit

This accessibility audit will investigate issues in attitude, architecture, chemical sensitivity and communication as well as fellowship, pastoral and worship possibilities.

Part I of “How to Conduct an Accessibility Audit” will cover organization to get the job done.

Part II, an Accessibility Mini-Audit, will provide general check lists for you to follow to discover how accessible your congregation is. This is a short form audit. Each local church is unique, so the way you conduct your accessibility study will be tailored to your needs, but remember you are also planning for the future. It is a proven fact that when your attitudes and facility become accessible, people with special needs will find your church.


How to Get Started

1. A taskforce on special needs often inaugurates the accessibility audit.   If not, find others who are interested in making your congregation accessible. Get together to plan how you will proceed.  Include your pastor and other appropriate persons. The more persons involved, the more discoveries will be made and attitudes will change.

2.  Recruit teams to work the audit. It is important that you NOT do it alone. You will need ten to twelve persons, more for a large building with grounds.  Include representatives from various areas of the church:  officers of the church, youth, men and women of all ages, persons with disabilities, perhaps the architect of your church.  Include a person in a wheelchair for trial entrances, turns and advice.

3. Set a time for the audit. Ask each person to bring a tape measure, chalk, pencil and note pad. Bring scales for weighing door weight. Explain the purpose of the audit to the group and how the audit will be conducted. Pray with the group after stressing the spiritual importance of making a congregation accessible.

Assign teams to work the audit using copies of Part 2 of this paper or another official accessibility audit form.

4.  Assign teams to the following areas to be audited:

  • Attitude and Communications
  • Doors
  • Stairs
  • Ramps, Curb Cuts, Walks and parking
  • Corridors and Restrooms
  • Sanctuary
  • Air Quality and Water Fountains
  • Pastor and Parsonage
  • Classroom Accessibility
  • Leadership Training

5. After each team audits its area, have separate groups discuss their findings, define danger points and prioritize for urgency. Need more information? Assess how to get the information and set a later meeting for that purpose.

6. Reassemble all groups and have them collate their priorities lists placing all urgent needs at the top of the list. Set goals for what can be done immediately with the necessary official approval.  For example, painting parking places might happen immediately without much cost, but building a restroom that is accessible will need budget approval. A dangerous step off or loose railing or a special needs student sitting with a parent in the library during Sunday school will need immediate attention.

7. Present a summary of the prioritized-list (with urgent and long-range plans available in detail) to the Building and Grounds Committee, education committee, governing body or appropriate council in your local church. Don’t be discouraged if groups think all ADA requirements have already been taken care of.

8. Meet with the audit teams often to keep your needs on track.  Publicize the audit and the work teams. Announce what you are going to do, do it, then say what you did and present findings.  Encourage persons to come forward to express their needs before you do the audit. Keep pushing so that your work goes forward without stalling. A taskforce on disability can keep the groups on track.



Part Two contains check sheets for assessing where your congregation stands on various issues of accessibility. Remember as you conduct this survey that past faults of omission were not with malice. Mostly, everyone thinks the ADA has been followed and everything is already taken care of.

Correctly measuring the attitudes of a congregation will help you know where to begin the work of accessibility.

Check the way things are against the way you wish them to be. Mark Y for Yes, N for No and I for Need Information.

Attitudinal Accessibility

* Our church is a church for ALL persons.

* Our church conducts a yearly “Access Sunday” worship, celebration, or other    activity.

* Has knowledge that everyone struggles with something.

* Has intergenerational interaction.

* Is willing to study needs of persons with disabilities.

* Has a special kind of love that expands to encompass others.

* Members have patience with each other.

* Members are willing to include persons with disabilities in leadership as  well as recreation, study, worship and service.

* Members have an honest assessment of the status of accessibility.

* Members know that inclusion is more than ramps and parking places.

Communications Accessibility

Our church has:

* Interpreters for persons in the congregation who are hearing impaired.

*Fellowship and study opportunities for persons who are deaf or deafened.

* A telecommunications device (TDD) either at the church or in the home of a      child’s teacher or both.

* Assistive listening devices in the sanctuary and available for other meetings. .

* Adequate sound amplification in all large meeting halls.

* Cassette or CDs of services, special events, music, and some books.

* Large print bulletins, hymnals, Bibles and Braille Bible and hymnal available.

* Notice of availability of all assistive equipment  in every  bulletin and church newsletter.

*Offers sign language and/or speech reading classes to improve communication among the congregation and persons with hearing disabilities.

*Information available about lift-equipped public transportation including schedules.

*A loose-leaf Braille hymnal

*Printed words for persons who cannot stand to see power point worship presentations.

* Offers a mentor to accompany a person who is blind.

Physical Accessibility

Answer Y for Yes, N for No, I for need more information . Does our church have the following:

Doors that

*Open completely.

*Have lever type hardware  and some with electric buttons.

*Have 1/2 inch maximum threshold height.

*If ramped, have gradual slope and do not have the door opening into slope.

*Have 32″ clear opening with no furniture blocking the way.

*Have 18″ to 24″ to the side of the door without obstruction.

*Do not open directly into a driveway.

*Provide vision panels for major activity routes.

Stairs with

* Non-slip surfaces.

* Good lighting.

* At least 44″ width and handrails on both sides.

* An adult hall monitor posted to help with stairs if necessary.

* Handrails that can support at least 250 pounds.

* Handrails for children that are mounted between 18″ and 20″ above stairs.

* Handrails for general use that are mounted 32″ above steps.

Ramps and Curb Cuts that are

* Clearly marked and reserved with visible signs and with a route sign       directing passengers to the designated area.

* A flashing light if children walking from the designated parking area must          cross a traffic area.

* Non-slip surfaces.

* Inclined at 1:12 or less. (For every 12″ of horizontal distance covered the             ramp cannot rise more than 1″).

* Guarded by handrails if the ramp rises more than 6″.

*  Made as easy as possible. For every 30″ of ramp rise, there must be a level       rest platform at least 5′ long and there must be a 5×5 platform at            changes of direction.  If there is a drop off at the side of a ramp, some   kind of protection such as a curb must also be provided.

*36″ exclusive of flared sides.

Walks have

* Firm, non-slip surfaces.

* Drainage grate openings no greater than 1/2″ wide in any direction.

* 48″ minimum width.

* Good lighting

Parking that is

* Close to entrances.

* Clearly marked as reserved with route markers telling the location of reserved parking.

* At least 144″ wide, with some wider for special equipment.

* Level, paved, and well lighted.

* Located so that no person alights on to a drainage grill.

*Located near ramps so that a person may stay out of traffic.

* Designated by white or yellow slash marks to indicate crossings by persons with mobility problems.

* Reserved for special community lift vans, the size depending on transportation.

* If the church owns a van or bus, is it lift-equipped and outfitted with stability straps.

Corridors with

* 48″ minimum width.

* Handrails on both sides when possible.

* Drinking fountains, fire extinguishers and telephones recessed in the walls.

*Restrooms with     (or at least one restrooms on ground floor)

* At least 5 ‘ x 5’ clear floor space.

* 29″ clear space below the sink with reachable soap and towels.

* Grab bars on both sides of toilet.

* Lever type faucets.

*Sign showing location of an accessible restroom.

*Nothing blocking door openings or turning radius of wheelchair.

Sanctuary has

*Out-of-aisle parking for wheelchairs.

*An entry sign telling where the parking is and where to obtain assistive devices for hearing and seeing.

*Ushers who know persons with special needs and who are willing to assist.

*Large print bulletins, large print Bible and hymnal available for persons with vision impairment.

*Assistive devices such as amplification head sets,

*Signing assistant for deaf positioned in sight-line with minister.

*Access for everyone to communion table

Air quality in our church is improved by

*A policy of using unscented products.

*A perfume free area of meeting or designated aroma free class.

*The use of unscented candles.

One water fountains on each floor

*Has up front controls.

*Has its top rim between 30” and 34” above the floor or if higher has a drinking cup dispenser mounted no higher than 40”.

*All water fountains do not project into a walking path.

Our Pastor

*Has training in disability awareness

* Knows who to call for sign language interpretation or *Carries a  pad of paper for written communication when visiting in hospitals or nursing homes.

Our Parsonage

*Is accessible to persons with mobility difficulties.

*Has one bedroom on the first floor that can accommodate a person with a disability.

*Has bathrooms accessible to all persons.


All children’s rooms have

* A resting place for canes and crutches where they will not fall over to injure someone.

*Door sills no higher than 1/2″. ( But a child may not be able to manage a door    sill that high. Make the sill smooth and provide help for the door.)

* Excellent lighting necessary especially for persons with visual or auditory impairments.

* A large magnifying glass.

* Soft blocks in learning centers with children having behavior problems.

*A poster and teacher instruction on what to do when someone has a seizure.

* Adjoining, fenced playground with at least some equipment designed for special needs children.  Flowers and herbs for sensory stimulation, enclosed swing for a wheelchair, etc.  Playgrounds are specialized areas     requiring detailed specifications.

*A safe haven space for children who need to be removed from a classroom because of acting out or general misbehavior and an adult to accompany them.

*Accessible bathrooms.

As necessary, some  children’s rooms have

*A wheelchair lap table. In a child’s classroom where furniture is small, a child in a wheelchair cannot push under a table.

*Adjustable easels and a plastic cover cloth (for paint protection while in a wheelchair.)

* Minimum turning space of 5′ x’ 5 for a wheelchair.

* Tactile markers on furniture, learning centers, doors, windows, etc. for a child with visual impairment.  Invite the child to help you place the markers.


*Teachers have access to sensitivity training for persons with special needs as    well as specific materials and equipment  for special needs.

*Church staff has had training for sensitive dealing with person with special needs.

*If mainstreaming persons with learning differences or developmental disabilities, all aides, coaches, or other accompanying adult  involved are included in teacher planning sessions.

*Persons involved in leisure ministry or separate educational functions have available various forms of training including video tapes and books.

Compiled and adapted for use at Chapelwood United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas.