HOW MUCH WILL Accessibility COST IN MONEY?
The best beginning in making your church accessible is free as you work at changing attitudes and discovering needs.
Meanwhile, you can discover resources, work on plans for physical accessibility and prepare a budget. When presenting the budget, be sure to tell the group why you need as well as what you need. It’s very smart to have a representative of the building committee on a needs and accessibility taskforce.
FREE !!! FREE !!!!! FREE!!!!! FREE!!!!! FREE!!!!
IMPROVE CHURCH ENVIRONMENT
• Sermons set a foundation for stressing the importance of congregational environment and special needs hospitality. Pastors by their actions say and give signed” permission slips.”
• Train ministers, staff persons and key leaders in sensitivity and the broad scope of accessibility including mobility, blind or visual, deaf, deafened and hard of hearing, mental illness, developmental disability, learning disability and chronic illness.
• Share visions of a more accessible congregation. Congregations do not deliberately shut someone out; they think someone has taken care of the desires and needs of persons’ special needs. Use stories, drama, film, discussion and sermons to raise awareness. Persons with special needs bring their many gifts to evangelism, fellowship, worship, budget, education, and leadership.
• LEARN THE NAMES OF PERSONS IN YOUR CONGREGATION WHO ARE DISABLED, AND MAKE AN EFFORT TO SEE EACH ONE AS A PERSON. If you have no person who is disabled, there is something seriously wrong and missing from your congregation. You can fix it!
• Appoint a task force or special committee, including persons with special needs, to discover needs, and map out action to be taken in phases. Assure success by keeping the group together to oversee the improvement of church environment and work with future issues.
• Do a church accessibility audit using your denomination’s form or see links below. Prioritize findings and until dangerous mobility issues can be fixed, station safe-persons as helpers at danger points. For example, a railing missing or a door too heavy to open would require a person there to assist.
• Use pew cards to determine needs of persons in the congregation with special needs. Keep these available in the pews, and don’t give up if no one fills them out; a statement is being made by the presence of the cards. A sample is on this site.
• Ask persons with impairments how the church can further meet their needs. They may not want you to do something for them. They may need to do something for the church.
• Actively look for persons with impairments in the community not served by a church.
• Train teachers on inclusiveness. Network with other churches and borrow their materials if necessary. Or hold joint training or an information-sharing program. Mentors and buddies
• Include leaders who work with special needs youth and adults with developmental delay in your safe sanctuary information requests. Special needs persons must be guaranteed safety.
• Attend local, denominational leadership schools and classes on attitudinal and physical accessibility.
• Learn to use appropriate language and study the language your church speaks by its actions and words.
• Identify and use leaders with disabilities.
• Train ushers and greeters to help them feel comfortable with persons with special needs. Handbook address available below.
• Prepare a plan for emergencies such as fire, flood, earthquake,hurricane. Special needs persons need careful handling.
• Do children’s study of “Circle of Friends,” that teaches respect, differences and valuing persons just for themselves.
• Use Manual for Ushers and Greeters (see below) to train ushers on greeting persons with special needs.
• Search for someone who does sign language to interpret worship and other services. If no one is available, plan sign language and speech reading classes.
• Learn sign language and/or carry paper for writing communication in hospitals and visitation.
• Plug into programs already in place such as the visitation program to persons who are at-home, nursery visitation programs or visiting nurse programs.
• Begin support groups. Decide how you can keep it not a “pity party” but a positive learning experience on coping with illness, disability or care giving.
FREE PHYSICAL CHANGES
• Re-arrange classrooms so light falls on speaker’s mouths allowing lip reading (also called speech reading). This helps until you can get an amplification system or afford a person who signs, but with speech reading the observer understands only about 40% of what is said.
• Collect wheelchairs, walkers and other aids for members to use. Keep a wheelchair at the church or have a church database of available equipment kept in homes.
• Check the air quality of the entire church, study custodial products being used, publicize the non-use of perfumes.
CELEBRATE YOUR BLESSINGS
• Hold sanctuary celebrations that address ways persons of differing abilities celebrate.
• Acknowledge persons who work in your disability program. Give an appreciation party, invite them to serve communion, write a news article, etc.
• Celebrate the formation of a special needs task force. Introduce the group, and formally commission them.
MINIMAL COST !!!!! MINIMAL COST !!!!! MINIMAL COST !!!!! MINIMAL COST !!!!
• Buy Bete Pamphlets (address below) about attitudes and etiquette for disabilities.
• Buy and study booklet, That All May Worship, (address below).
• Order only samples of curriculum until you know if it fits the needs of your group.
• USE STOP-GAP METAL RAMPS FOR ONE OR TWO STEPS UNTIL YOU CAN BUILD STURDY RAMPS. (A three-foot suitcase ramp costs about $200. – $300.)
• Paint designated parking places. Be certain they meet needs, especially van lift parking and spaces for public transport. Rely on no one. Check the accuracy of these yourself.
• Provide large print hymnals, worship bulletins and Bibles in the foyer of your church. Use clear font
• Purchase an electronic decoder that converts sound captioned works for use with videos. (Cost under $300.00) Disciples Bible study offers special videos for this.
• While waiting for designs and budget approval for renovations, become informed on blue print reading, the Americans with Disability Act and your states’ requirements. It costs more money to fix a contractor’s mistake than making it accessible in the first place.
• Place first aid kits at several locations. Give training and instructions in resuscitation using a mouth protector. Review how to take care of a patient with seizures.
• Install a defibrillator in a central location and instruct leaders on its location and use.
That All May Worship, An Interfaith Welcome to People With Disabilities, National Organization on Disabilities:
Special Needs Ministry Handbook, for youth:
The North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church has a complete resource guide for special needs:
Order catalogue: Scriptograph Booklets by Channing L. Bete Co. Inc. South Deerfield, MA 01373 USA, phone 800-626-7733
That All May Understand, Ministering With Persons Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Debbie W. Parvin, Christian Board of Publication, P. O. Box 179, St. Louis, MO 63166-0179
There is a printable version of Money Priority available here.