Creating a diverse, well-bonded community of likeminded individuals is essential for any place of worship. In order to create this community, you need to make sure your church, mosque, temple, or other religious building is accessible to as many people as possible. Is your place of worship adapted to meet the needs of worshippers with mobility impairments and physical disabilities? Here are the 4 main criteria you need to meet.
A Way to Get In
People with mobility impairments may use apparatus such as wheelchairs, crutches, or frames. Alternatively, they may walk unaided but with difficulty. To make sure these people don't have to walk further than necessary, reserve the closest parking spaces for those with disabilities. You should also ensure that you have a way for your fellow congregants have a way to get inside the building itself. If you don't want to have your stairs converted into a ramp, consider getting a wheelchair lift installed.
Space to Move Around
People with mobility impairments, even those who do not use a wheelchair, will need substantial space to move around freely. When placing furniture, make sure the passageways between items are wide enough for every member to reach all parts of the building, including altars and toilets.
Somewhere to Sit
In many places of worship, a lot of time is spent sitting and listening to sermons, so make sure people with physical disabilities can sit comfortably. Try to leave as much legroom as possible between the pews to make it easier for people with physical disabilities to sit down comfortably. You should also leave space for wheelchair users to sit; ideally, there should be space by each pew so they can choose their spot. Why not add cushions to your seats too? Even those with no mobility issues will appreciate the comfort.
A Supportive Community
To make someone with a disability feel truly welcomed, your community must be supportive. Try to find some volunteers to assist mobility impaired individuals with any physical needs throughout the service. You should also ensure that everyone treats each other with understanding and respect. Make sure that no one is treated as or referred to as "the disabled one" -- people with mobility impairments are complex individuals with personalities just like everyone else. As the leader of the community, remember to also ensure that activities and instructions are accessible; asking people to stand, for example, can single some members out.