The Church Proved It Can Get Creative. Let’s Not Stop Adapting.

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How rethinking worship can improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Over the past few months, faith communities around the world have adapted to gather and worship remotely during the pandemic. While doing church online has had a learning curve, it has also removed barriers for some people with disabilities, allowing access to communities and spaces that were inaccessible before.

Yet, some disabled churchgoers have remarked how frustrating it is that it took a global crisis for many churches to offer more inclusive and accessible options for their full involvement and participation.

As the whole church is now reexamining what church means and how we do it, Christians have an opportunity to create communities of true access and welcome. This moment invites us to be flexible with how we structure our church meetings for the sake of including more members of Christ’s body.

When I (Bethany) worked as the director of a seminary’s accessibility office, I encountered people at all points in their disability journeys. Being a self-advocate and navigating unwelcoming structures are things many people with disabilities have to learn as a basic survival skill, but they can also take time to develop. Some students expressed what tremendous effort it took just to contact the accessibility office in the first place. Some did not have a disability you would notice upon meeting them and didn’t use mobility aids, but the need to walk on uneven terrain or climb stairs made some environments inaccessible to them.

Point being, there may be people in your community for whom meeting in homes (or potential other new spaces or models for gathering that church leaders may choose in the interim) will make it impossible for them to participate—because of literal steps to enter the space or another …

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