To start making your faith community more accessible follow these three steps:
- Form an Inclusion Committee
- Identify barriers
- Make a plan
You can learn more about each step in the sections below.
Step 1: Form an Inclusion Committee
A good way to make inclusion and accessibility a priority in your community is to form an Inclusion Committee (also called a “disability awareness committee” or an “accessibility committee”); this is a group of people in your faith community that looks after the needs of people with diverse abilities. Members of inclusion committees are the community’s champions for accessibility for people with disabilities.
You can begin by recruiting people with disabilities for leadership roles within your community. Having people with lived experience of disability in leadership positions is critical for creating and supporting a more inclusive infrastructure. They will be able to give advice on accessibility and inclusion matters within your community based on their personal/professional knowledge, expertise, and experience.
Tips for the Inclusion Committee meetings
- Meet regularly, at least three times per year.
- Discuss the needs of people with disabilities.
- Plan ways to change the space and their practices in order to improve access.
- Find (and take steps to repair) areas that have challenges for people with disabilities.
- A representative from the Inclusion Committee should be part of the place of worship’s management or operations team to ensure that accessibility is given prominence on management agendas.
Help your community sustain its diverse membership and maintain enthusiasm for diversity goals by bringing up the topic of inclusion when planning all activities and continuing to take steps that continually improve and integrate inclusive thinking.
Step 2: Identify Barriers
Although accessibility may seem like a practical issue, it is also a theological one. When a faith community has barriers to accessing its facilities, rituals, and practices, the community is making a statement about its beliefs and about who should be included. Identifying and removing barriers is a key step in the inclusion process.
Brief Accessibility Checklist
Your inclusion committee will be especially helpful for identifying barriers in your faith community. Barriers were described in the Getting Started section above. You can use our checklist to begin checking the accessibility of your services and facilities in the resources section.
Step 3: Make a Plan
Are you missing a few things from the Brief Accessibility Checklist? Perhaps all you need is a simple tweak. You may be worried that adding some of the features on the checklist may be too costly. Don’t worry! There are always creative ways to tackle problems that are innovative and affordable. Read the rest of the guide for ideas. Also, check out our website (http://opendoors.idrc.ocadu.ca/category/welcoming-communities) for what other communities are already doing. Do you have an accessibility solution that you are really proud of? Share your idea with us on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/OurDoorsAreOpen/).
Some Ideas for Making Your Plan
- Look at the items that have been checked “not yet.” With your committee, consider which of the items you can remedy easily and which ones will take more time and resources. There are tips in the Getting Down to Work section below to help you learn ways to remove barriers. You may need to consult this section while making your plan.
- Select the order that you want to address each item. You may want to start with the easier ones and just one of the items that will take more resources.
- For each item, determine what resources (people, material, money) you will need and how you will get them.
- Have a short-term and long-term plan that will let you address each of the items. Your short-term plan should have more details and specific dates. Your long-term plan may have step-by-step goals like setting aside funds or applying for grants.
- Remember to consult with members of your community who have disabilities and check the Our Doors Are Open resources section.