Our Doors are Open Guide: Implementation Examples

Getting Organized

Anglican Parish: Trinidad & Tobago

Contributed by Ashton Gomez


I was unable to meet with the hospitality committee for their input, however, I did meet with the Parish Vestry and we had a look at our position as a Church and realized that we are in the majority of “not yet”. Therefore I believe that the Vestry was a good place to start since we would be needing funds for the implementation and planning of many of the areas listed. For accountability purposes, the Vestry has decided that the Church Wardens would have oversight of these projects along with myself as the Parish priest to ensure that all will be done as smoothly as possible.

Areas to begin:

We decided to look at the areas that would for the moment have the least of an economic impact on the Parish but would be of significant improvement to the lives of the members of the community.

1. Having printed materials available in alternate formats.

The Plan here is to make extra copies of the weekly bulletin printed in larger font size for those with reduced vision and also have it digitized by the Information and Technology committee within the Parish.

We also thought that introducing pictures that can capture certain events would assist those with difficulty in reading.

This would come into effect over the course of two weeks. The bulletin will be adjusted immediately. While the digitizing will take the full two weeks to be implemented due to time restrictions of the volunteers.

The cost of printing the bulletin has been adjusted to facilitate the increase in pages for the large print to approximately two hundred dollars ($200.TT) per week.

There will be no additional cost to the digitization of since we have an established committee for this.

Persons responsible must report in a timely manner in the first instance the office clerk for the bulletin and then the chairperson of the I.T committee.

2. To have all areas of the building accessible from the inside. 

Our Parish Church has a floor space that is lower than that of the street. When one enters there is a ramp to get down only from the front of the building. It is then surrounded by a one-level step up on all sides.

Our Plan:

  1. Find a contractor to give an estimate of how much the work to be undertaken will cost.
  2. Seek the necessary approvals from the state as well as from the Diocesan council (this is part of the diocesan regulations when making changes to fixed structures).
  3. Seek funding, we decided to go about this by; having a special collection every month until the project is completed; soliciting donations from the business sector and having our own fundraisers.
  4. Have someone that is differently-abled gives us some guidance as to where maybe the most appropriate places to place and install new ramps and handrails.
  5. Ensure that we inform the congregation of the work to be done and that we make arrangements for any delays that may arise.
  6. Commence the work as soon as all is in place.

Persons with the oversight of this project will be the Parish Wardens and the building and Lands committee (as regards the Diocesan regulations).


In going through this project, I have found that there has been very little consideration given to persons living with disabilities. It has opened the eyes of the members of the Vestry and the feeling of not being independent and constantly having to rely upon others has awakened our sensitivity to the true needs of those that are living among us with disabilities. We have seen that the Church is far from being a place of inclusion in the fullest sense of the word. We hope that by beginning here we will be able to continue and make a difference with the Diocese in which we exist and become a place where other Parishes would come to learn about ways in which they too can work through the barriers that hinder the full inclusion of our members as well as anyone that may wish to join us for any kind of worship or celebration.

Catholic Parish Church: Mzuzu Catholic. Malawi

Contributed by Fr. Austin Ndowera


When I told my team that I wanted us to help people with disabilities, many people thought I was crazy. After all, we are a successful church and with no complaints received so far. What is it I was talking about? I then remembered what former first lady of USA, Rosalynn Carter once said. She said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” Telling my community about the need to include people with disabilities in our everyday activities in an outside church was like taking them out of their collective comfort zone. It was worse when I tried to ask them what we had for the people with disabilities and what we don’t. It is pathetic that almost all are the NOT YET’s. Worst still when I told them we have to work on them, it was a non-starter. but it forced us to learn new things, expand our skill-sets and eventually launch a great new product.

I believe that it’s my duty as a leader to ensure my team spends enough time in a state of “optimal anxiety.” This is a psychological term used to describe how getting out of cruise control and feeling under pressure can increase performance. Anyone who has played competitive sports will know that you need a certain amount of nervous energy to be at your best.

As mentioned above, at our parish, we are almost at zero. We have only managed “entrances to the church which are free from barriers that can impede a wheelchair.” This means we are like not yet started. That is why we have not yet started by tackling the “Not Yet’s” individually. We want the parish team to first have the knowledge and then they can very well take up the responsibility. Otherwise, nothing can materialize. Here below is our plan on how I will stretch my team and take them where they may not want to go:

  1. We will start small

It is good to start small and test how each individual steps out of their comfort zone. We will ask someone to take charge of an internal meeting that we would usually lead. If a team presents a tried and trusted plan, we will have them explore new ideas to push their strategy further. We will nudge people to go against their usual instincts, like urging a naturally cautious person to consider a riskier option. By starting small, we will discover who copes well with new challenges and may be ready to go even further next time.

  1. We will have clear goals

Last year, we completed the 1 km from our local “Chipokawawoli” mountain. It was a real challenge that took me completely out of my hiking comfort zone, but as each step got harder and harder, the simple goal of just getting to the top kept me going.

When people are clear about the end goal of a challenging project, it’s easier to motivate them. A fuzzy purpose can be demotivating when the going gets tough and leave them wondering if it’s worth all the anxiety and pressure.

We will set clear and simple targets that will help people visualize the end result and stay focused on what they need to do to get there.

  1. We will give them a mission

Our Parish’s mission is “Helping the People to Repent and to Know Christ”. Making this clear to the people who serve others in the Lord’s vineyard, gives them a greater sense of purpose than simply opening a parish tuck-shop

When people are passionate about what they do, they’re more willing to push themselves into areas where they’re not comfortable. Our desire to make a difference in the world helps us remain in that state of optimal anxiety without tipping over into completely stressed-out.  We will give the team a sense of purpose and that mission will sustain them when they’re outside their comfort zone.

  1. We will be supportive

When people are first out of their comfort zone, they’ll usually need a lot of help and encouragement. Whenever we will take my team where they may not want to go, we will make sure not to abandon them thereby having regular check-ins and prioritizing their wants.

But the extent of my support is also a balancing act. One is not properly pushing people if he or she continually give them all the answers. We will try to provide guidance and moral support without completely solving our team’s problems.

We will make time for support in the beginning, and the team will eventually get to a place where they don’t rely on me as much.

  1. Accepting occasional failure

It’s always great to cook that family favourite you’ve prepared a hundred times before. There’s a reason it’s called comfort food! But it’s also fun to play around with new ingredients and techniques, even if it may occasionally result in an inedible mess and a phone call to your local take-out restaurant.

We can’t meet every challenge, especially not the first time. When we will be pushing our team, it will be important they know that failure is not the end of the world. Otherwise, the perceived consequences of not getting it right could turn optimal anxiety into stress and ever-diminishing returns on performance.

By accepting that people will occasionally fail when they try something new, we will allow them the freedom to win big.


Being in our comfort zone isn’t inherently bad. It is good to dip back in there regularly, so we not living in a constant state of anxiety. Not everyone thrives with anxiety, and that’s also ok. Every business needs steady, dependable performers as well as risk-takers.

But to achieve greatness, we will need to lead enough people on our team to where they may not want to go. It won’t be easy, but when we achieve that state of optimal anxiety, the results will be worth the effort.

Ste-Thérèse Chapel: Canada

Contributed by Chantal Brien

See PowerPoint presentation here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1DB63y7-nM1Kde7dFk9hsbOdP4wC3t91-

St Benedict’s Parish, Ealing Abbey: London, UK

Contributed by Daniel Ferguson


To begin this stage of our project we set up an Inclusion Committee, identified the existing barriers and made a plan to address the barriers. In doing so we followed the advice set out in Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Communities, namely the three steps set out on page 12:

1.     Form an Inclusion Committee

2.     Identify Barriers

3.     Make a Plan

Below are the details of the Inclusion Committee and the first meeting that took place.

  1. Form an Inclusion Committee 

To begin our endeavour we formed an Inclusion Committee of 5 members. We named the committee an Inclusion Committee to make sure the topics for consideration could be wide-ranging. The committee is formed of individuals that represent a wide membership of the Parish and is as follows:

  • Catechetical Coordinator
  • A parishioner with unsteady walking
  • A parishioner with hearing difficulties
  • A parishioner with Autism
  • A parishioner with low-level English

The Committee will report directly to the Parish Team. The Parish Team meets weekly on Mondays 10:30 am-12:00 pm. The Committee will meet fortnightly initially and monthly thereafter. The members of the Committee have been recruited with the following remit:

  • To be a champion for accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in every part of the Parish’s life
  • To take on a leadership role and be a point of contact, information and empowerment to others within the Parish who face inclusion difficulties
  • To identify barriers to active participation
  • To raise ideas of how to increase active participation
  • To identify and develop financial plans to make a more welcoming community

 Identify Barriers

The first Inclusion Committee Meeting took place on Thursday 24th October 7-8 pm.

The first barrier that was faced was the issue of communicating the location and time for the meeting. Sharmila does not use technology so contact had to be made in person.

The second barrier was that of accessibility to the room we were due to meet. The room had two swing door but one was locked shut so Sheila was unable to get her wheelchair through the door. We agreed to change the venue to a nearby room which had better access.

We proceeded by going through the Brief Accessibility Checklist. To begin, 

Barriers of Attitude 

Q.1 All of the Committee said they had never been asked whether they felt welcome. None of the Committee could remember a time when another Parishioner had mentioned being asked the same question.

Q.2 All of the Committee bar one (Sheila) said they had never been asked to be a member of a committee in the Parish or serve in an active way in the Parish. The Committee could only name one other person in the Parish with a disability who participates in a leadership role.

Q.3 The community does not have a committee and/or disability advocate in a formal manner. However, one of the Parish Team members is a vocal advocate for consideration of accessibility when it comes to major events.

Q.4 None of the Committee knew of any instructions given to any community leader on how to approach people with specific accessibility needs.

Q.5 It was commented that during the distribution of Communion the Parish has a very good system of going to those who are unsteady on their feet. It was also commented that other Parishioners are mindful of the need to wait until members with disabilities had received Communion first before crowding them out.

Q.6 There is no formal arrangement for transportation to Sunday Masses for those who cannot drive. At present Parishioners do this of their own volition. The idea of having a formal arrangement coordinated by the Parish has been mooted before but there has always been the difficulty of Safeguarding. In line with Diocesan Safeguarding procedures, there would be the need for two DBS checked and authorized personnel present in the vehicle for each journey.

For the Parish’s midweek over 65s meeting, there is a company employed to shuttle individuals to the Parish.

Barriers of Communication

Q.1 The Parish has a T loop system in place which is considered very good by those who have voiced verbal feedback. The sound system was installed two years ago and funded by a grant.

Q.2 There is no facility for Sign Language interpretation.

Q.3 The Church is very poorly lit in some parts. In others, it is very well lit.

Q.4 The only alternative printed materials are large font and digital copy. Other forms are not provided at present.

Q.5 There is no information displayed about accessibility in general, let alone alternative formats.

Q.6 There is no visual projection of any of the worship.

Q.7 It was not known what this question meant by plain language. There are Order of Mass Booklets available but these are considered confusing with a lot of writing on them.

Architectural or Structural Barriers

Q.1 Accessible parking is provided with a number of disabled parking bays.

Q.2 All entrances were considered free from barriers that could impede a wheelchair or the infirm.

Q.3 There are not lever-style handles on all inside doors. Doors are considered the biggest issue of structural accessibility as they are heavy and hard to open. Many people struggle with the doors.

Q.4 A ramp is available which makes access to the whole Church possible. Although it was mentioned that there is no ramp to the Sanctuary which means that some people are unable to be readers.

Q.5 Doors to some rooms are inadequate in width for a wheelchair. The only door which is adequate in width is to the disabled toilet.

Q.6 Proper handrails are installed on all stairs and ramps. Also in the disabled toilet.

Q.7 The Disabled toilet had a raised seat and space next to the toilet for a side transfer, with room to turn around in a large power wheelchair.

Q.8 Nearly all levels are accessible inside the building. The only area that is not is the Sanctuary (as mentioned previously).

Q.9 People who use wheelchairs do not have a choice in every room of where to sit. This is because in the church building the pews are fixed fittings. There is an option in all other rooms.

Q.10 Incense used at Mass does not give off too much smoke or scent so is respecting those with these sensibilities. The lighting and sound system were not considered to cause glare or be subject to loud noise.

Make a Plan

It was decided by the Committee to focus on three aspects which are considered as not yet. Two of these were considered easily improved and the other trickier.

  1. Barriers of Attitude – Asking members if they feel welcome. The Committee considered this easily addressable by a number of measures:
    1. On New Parishioners form including a field where feedback and advice can be given on how welcoming the Parish is in general and in relation to accessibility and inclusion
    2. Creating a survey which is accessible through different mediums (online, paper copy, verbal) which can be rolled out over several weekends to capture existing Parishioners’ views
    3. Highlight the facilities already in place and available to use (e.g. T loop)
  1. Barriers of Communication – Printed materials available in alternative formats. The Committee considered this easily addressable by:
    1. Having the newsletter published digitally
    2. Having Braille copies of the Order of Mass and Confession How-To Guides
    3. Researching and producing Dyslexia friendly printed copies of the newsletter
  2. Architectural and Structural Barriers – Entrances that do not impede wheelchair access. The Committee considers this topic to be rather difficult as there are financial constraints. The existing doors which give access to the Church for wheelchair users are very heavy. The Committee suggested:
    1. Fixing of the doors so that it remains open when latched as at present it only remains open for a short period.
    2. Seeking a number of quotes from contractors to automize these four doors in order to make them open at the push of a button.

Moving Forward

The Inclusion Committee will meet again in a fortnight. The first meeting was an excellent start to this endeavour and one that has already born good practical fruit. The main points from this meeting will be presented to the Parish Team Meeting on Monday 28th October and hopefully, the practical measures suggested by the Inclusion Committee will be taken forward.

Religious Community: Rome, Italy

Contributed by Sr. Gemma Tenedero Benavidez


Since our community as of now is not open to this kind of apostolate, I was alone who work on this possible proposal.  My idea is very limited thanks for the sharing of my classmates I gain at least a little possible course of action. I want to focus on the attitude barriers and I chose the third one. “Our community has a committee and/or disabilities advocate”. I think this is the most important one in our community to advocate with disabilities. This is the stepping stone of our community in order to reach out to people with disabilities.

Possible plan to advocate disability in my community

Awareness – Since our community is composed of religious sisters and priests. Since I am the one doing this seminar, who knows I am God’s instrument to open the mind of my community and make them aware or encourage them that there are also some other souls who need to be reached out. The important thing is to make our community aware of the needs of people with disabilities. For example, during recreation, we will watch documentaries regarding people with disabilities. This is my chance to introduce to my community. 

Explore or go out and switch up the daily routine – For example every Sunday the student priests go to their respective communities to officiate masses or perform sacraments. Perhaps I or my community will go with them to assist the priests and make friends with their members of the community. At first, maybe we find it difficult to meet with people with disabilities. However since most of the members of their communities are working here in Italy as Domestic helper or caregiver, I am sure every community at least one of them know one people with disability. We will try to do this for two months to visit different communities.

Make an announcement –  In every community we will try to encourage the members also ask them to bring their friends and remind them that everyone is invited including people with disabilities.   Encourage them to join the eucharistic celebration. We will try to encourage also the priests to help us meet people with disabilities. Though this is a great challenge because the priests are sent here in Rome to study and officiate masses every Sunday.

Conduct Classes –  Since our building is almost perfect. No structural barriers, I cannot imagine now that our building is perfect for this kind of apostolate but we don’t know at least one person with disabilities. Maybe because we don’t pay attention to these persons so sad… Now I realize that we can easily gather them and give them classes at least once a week. First, we will introduce to them the sacraments if they don’t know yet. Then prepare for them to receive the sacrament. Since we have 58 priests here in our community we can easily approach them to perform the sacraments that they did not receive yet. Then when the community is already stable my community can conduct classes about catechetical formation at least every Sunday. 


As of now, this is the only thing that I know about how my community will advocate with persons with disabilities.  Upon working on this kind of attitude and barriers, I realized that throughout our life as a religious member of a congregation, our community overlooked their need. We tend to forget that they also belong to the church. We focus so much on other things. Who knows time will come God gives an opportunity to speak out to my community and proposed and encourage them to at least turn our eyes to these people. Religious life is really different from secular life we have the vow of obedience. We need to obey whenever we are assigned. We just rely on God’s providence. Like now I don’t understand why I take this seminar. Perhaps time will come I will understand why I am studying this seminar.

Sacred Heart Catholic Parish: Waltham, MA United States

Contributed by Sr. Mira Taurannang


I had a short meeting with Miss Bernadette and we went over the Brief Accessibility Checklist beginning with Barriers of Attitude, secondly Barriers of Communication and lastly, Architectural or Structural Barriers. What I found intriguing was the parish’s attitude towards people with disabilities, which was very positive and promising. For the one on communication and architectural or structural barriers, there is improvement yet to be made on the part of the parish council and the faithful. For example: on the architectural or structural barriers – Door handles are lever style on all inside doors. (Marked Not yet). The doors need fixing and repairing so people with disabilities would be able to access freely and more easily without a problem. As a community, we need to work toward meeting these “not yet’s.” Though some of these barriers may cost money, need people with expertise but above all, it needs the collective effort of the parish/faith community.

Making a Plan for addressing Barriers.

I chose two from the “not yet’s” list, one from the architectural or structural barriers, which is, Door handles are lever style on all inside doors and one from barriers of communication which is: Printed materials are available in alternative formats, such as large print, audio, and digital (also Braille, when requested in advance) (fig. 11). I create a plan to mitigate some of the barriers that our parish community has not done yet for people with disabilities. The followings are the five steps that I plan to put into place within my own parish/faith community.  

Step 1: Design of Doors/Entrance/Exits. The most important thing in order to access any building whether to be a Church or Hall is the door or entrance. For people with disabilities, the design of the doors would be a challenge and a barrier for them. Therefore, as a faith community, we have to consider how people are going to arrive and to take part in our places of worship (Church), activities (Hall) or even catechesis whether people with canes, wheelchairs, automobile chairs, etc. How do we accommodate their needs?

Step 2:  Doors need to be fixed. We have to make sure that all the doors of the building whether Church or Hall have levers so that it will be easy for them to access. We also need to put big clear signs that show the directions or tell people the Entrance and Exits signs. 

Step 3: Finding funds or grants. For the doors, it might not take a huge amount of money for repairs but in the case of the Printed materials, we do need more expenses and budgeting for it. Investing in this project will need the consent of the parish council and consultation from the parishioners.

Step 4: Find people/volunteers. Finding people (volunteers) to do the work and we also provide support for their work. As a member of the council that oversees the maintenance/repairs of the Church’s property, we must encourage our parishioners to take part and get out of their comfort zone to give a helping hand.

Step 5: Teamwork makes work light! Working as a team/group is crucial in order to accomplish this project. We need to push ourselves to the limit and encourage one another to move forward and make a big change in our own parish community for the good of our dear brothers and sisters with disabilities.


First, it is important to educate our parishioners to open their eyes and to be more aware of people who are different from them within our community circle. There is still a lot of work to be done to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities in our places of worship. I do believe that every parish has a role to play in addressing these needs and trying to find solutions. In doing so, we can create an atmosphere where everyone feels accepted and included. This is the purpose of overcoming the three barriers mentioned in the plan so that our faith community will be called places of friendship, love and mutual support. In doing this, we are opening our doors to everyone as we strive to promote a more inclusive accessible faith community.