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Last updated 20th February 2024

Top tips for churches

A Diocesan working party, made up of people with lived experience, listed the following top tips on how to enable people to feel welcome and comfortable in our churches.  There is a wealth of advice and it is worth taking time to focus on one or two things.

Welcome Starts Outside the Church

Questions to ask include:

  • Can you get into the Church grounds?If you can, what does the Church entrance look like? Are there steps up to the door(s)? Is there one door or two, if there’s one then is it wide enough to get a wheelchair / pram through? Are the door(s) easy to open, could a wheelchair user open it / them themselves?
  • Once inside, is it obvious where someone in a wheelchair could “sit”, but not too obvious so that it is noticeable “in a bad way”. Does a person from the “Greetings / Welcoming” party approach to welcome this person as they would with any “newcomer”? Does the Church Warden / Verger engage with the person to see whether they are planning to take Communion and if so, are they ok to “go up” or do they want the Vicar / Minister to bring Communion to them? Is an Order of Service & Hymn book offered to them? Do other members of the congregation exchange greetings if / as they pass.
  • Does a wheelchair user get the same opportunities / treatment as the rest of the congregation? During Prayers, are all invited to “sit or kneel to pray”? When “The Peace” is exchanged amongst the congregation, does the wheelchair user feel involved?
  • Is your website up to date?  Is it accessible? Does it have information that helps disabled people access events and activities?  If you use A Church Near You, have you populated the facilities feature listing all the accessibility features?

Creating a Welcoming Culture

Make welcome part of your church's culture.  Encourage everyone to extend welcome.  Include disability awareness training led by disabled people.

Be considerate and do not be afraid to go over to someone and ask how you might help.

Let those with sight loss know in advance the songs and Bible readings so that they can be prepared.  Make instructions clear to eliminate uncertainty about whether people, if able, are sitting, standing etc.

Be forgiving and not pointing out mistakes in a way that has an impact on people’s self-confidence.

 

Think about how we respond to people who share aspects of their lives eg. not making light of what is said or laughing.

Adopt a can-do culture with an inclusive ethos, valuing all and addressing each person’s needs on an individual basis

Ensure our welcome enables people to feel they ‘belong.’

Welcome people at all times and show acceptance for those who arrive late.

Provide a named contact to ‘champion’ issues and initiate/signpost training on disability.

Speak directly to disabled people to find out how they are best supported and included.

 

Intentionally encourage and enable disabled people to contribute to church life using their God-given gifts

Worship

Make worship comfortable for those who finding sitting/standing still and being quiet for long periods of time. 

Understand what helps people concentrate, for example, knitting, crocheting, fidget items.

 

Anticipate – think in advance about differing needs and being ready.

Be flexible.

Know people well.  Make it a priority to ask members what is helpful.  For example, rotas don’t work for everyone and being told in person at an appropriate time is better.

 

 

Know and train others in how to give communion to include all so that people don’t feel excluded or embarrassed.

Plan service formats where it enables people to take toilet breaks in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

Plan the layout of churches carefully so that toilets are accessible and in a place where people can go out without embarrassment. 

 

 

If you feel included then you feel as though you have participated.

Accessible Spaces

Offer reserved parking/a drop-off point.

Have a loop system in operation and, when required, providing sign language interpreters and/or speech-to-text (captioning).

Offer seating (some chairs with arms) near the entrance/exit.

Use straightforward, jargon-free language.

Ensure that there are clear/pictorial signs (for people with learning disabilities).

Have a quiet space available during the main meeting for those who may need time-out.

Have good, even, glare and flicker-free lighting to benefit people with sight loss or autism.

Ensure there is commentary/audio description for purely visual content to those unable to see the screen/stage.

 

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