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Church Accessibility Seminar. “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people” - Isaiah 56:6. Who needs accessibility?. You can’t always tell when someone has a disability. Disabilities come in many forms: Visible Non-visible Permanent Non-permanent.

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Church Accessibility Seminar

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church accessibility seminar

Church Accessibility Seminar

“For my house shall be called a house

of prayer for all people”

- Isaiah 56:6

who needs accessibility
Who needs accessibility?

You can’t always tell when

someone has a disability.

Disabilities come in many forms:

  • Visible
  • Non-visible
  • Permanent
  • Non-permanent
what is a disability
What is a disability?

People can have one or a combination of

the following:

  • physical disabilities
  • vision loss
  • deafness or being hard of hearing
  • intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • learning disabilities
  • mental health disabilities
  • other disabilities

Churches are at the centre of

communal life, ritual observance,

and spiritual practice

churches and disability
Churches and Disability

Studies and anecdotal evidence on

people with disabilities support the:

  • importance of personal faith and spirituality
  • benefits of communal support from faith based communities

Churches are and can be an

important resource for people with


barriers to accessibility
Barriers to Accessibility

Barriers are:

  • obstacles that prevent people with

disabilities from fully participating in all aspects of society

  • visible — physical features of a building
  • invisible — attitudes, policies
barriers in churches
Barriers in Churches

1. Architectural and physical features of buildings or spaces that cause problems for people with disabilities.

In the Sanctuary

  • An inaccessible prayer platform
  • Lack of seating options for church attendees in wheelchairs
  • Poor lighting

In General

  • Inaccessible restrooms
  • Narrow doorways
  • Inaccessible floors/rooms
  • No elevator
barriers in churches1
Barriers in Churches

2. Information or communication that prevents people from easily understanding information.

  • Intellectually challenging sermons/community lectures
  • Lack of plain language newsletters/registration forms/publications
  • Newsletters/registration forms/publications only

available in one format

  • Small-print Bibles and song books
barriers in churches2
Barriers in Churches

3. Attitudes can discriminate against people with disabilities.

  • Congregational expectations related to appropriate church behaviour
  • Social stigma of people with disabilities
  • Uneducated perspectives on people with disabilities
  • Fear of people with disabilities
  • Cosmetic Inclusion - A tendency for the term inclusion to be used without a sincere attitude necessary to create a truly inclusive environment.
barriers in churches3
Barriers in Churches

4. Technology that is incompatible with assistive devices.

  • Churches websites that are incompatible with assistive software
  • Unavailable or broken assistive devices
  • Ushers and greeters lacking training on the use of devices offered by the church
barriers in church
Barriers in Church

5. Systemic policies, practices or procedures that discriminate against people with disabilities

  • The presence of service animals in the church
  • The integration of non-Christian support persons into public ritual observance
  • Lack of leadership opportunities for congregants with disabilities
  • Segregated programming for people with disabilities
  • Hosting of programs in inaccessible rooms
  • On June 13, 2005 the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed
  • Its goal is to develop mandatory accessibility standards to ensure that Ontario is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025

The act focuses on five key areas of


  • Customer Service
  • Information and Communications
  • Built Environment
  • Employment
  • Transportation
how accessibility standards become law
How Accessibility Standards Become Law
  • Standards Development Committees (SDCs) draft proposed accessibility standards for the five key areas
  • Proposed accessibility standards put forward for public review
  • Feedback incorporated
  • Final proposed accessibility standards submitted to Minister of Community and Social Services (MCSS)
  • Within 90 days all, part, or revisions of proposed accessibility standards enacted as legislation
accessibility standards for customer service
Accessibility Standards for Customer Service
  • First standard to become regulation came into force January 1, 2008
  • Public Sector compliance by January 1, 2010
  • Private Sector compliance by January 1, 2012
  • Applies to all organizations and businesses with one or more employees
  • Churches will have to comply by 2012
  • Establish policies, practices and procedures on providing programs and services to people with disabilities.
  • Use reasonable efforts to ensure that your policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.
requirements continued
Requirements continued….
  • Set a policy on allowing people to use their own personal assistive devices to access your programs and services.
  • Communicate with a person with a disability in a manner that takes into account his or her disability.
requirements continued1
Requirements continued…
  • Allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide dog or service animal in those areas of the premises you own or operate that are open to the public, unless the animal is excluded. If a service animal is excluded, use other measures to provide services to the person with a disability.
  • Permit people with disabilities who use a support

person to bring that person with them while accessing programs or services that are open to the public or third parties.

requirements continued2
Requirements continued…
  • Where program fees are charged, provide notice ahead of time on what admission, if any, would be charged for a support person of a person with a disability.
  • Provide notice when facilities or services that people with disabilities rely on to access your programs or services are temporarily disrupted.
requirements continued3
Requirements continued…
  • Train staff, volunteers, contractors and any other people who interact with the public or other third parties on your behalf on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard.
  • Train staff, volunteers, contractors and any other people who are involved in developing your policies, practices and procedures on the provision of programs and services on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard.
requirements continued4
Requirements continued…
  • Establish a process for people to provide feedback on how you provide programs or services to people with disabilities and how you will respond to any feedback and take action on any complaints. Make the information about your feedback process readily available to the public.
churches guide to the customer service standard
Churches Guide to theCustomer Service Standard

The guide is an important reference document for

church administrators and includes:

  • Suggestions on how church can meet each of the eleven specific requirements under the legislation
  • Templates for:
  • Creating accessibility policies
  • Receiving member feedback on accessibility
  • Providing notice of disruption of service

Please review this important document at

your convenience

  • The information contained within is based on the Accessibility Standards for Customer Services (Ontario Regulation 429/07) and was adapted and formulated by Christian Horizons for use in churches.