Welcoming New People into Your Community

Inclusive thinking is an ongoing process that means learning new habits and behaviours.

Step 1: Have a Plan for Welcoming New Community Members

Prepare your welcome committee members on how to interact with people with disabilities. Let the newcomer know that inclusion and accessibility is a priority in your community. Be clear about how any needs for an accessibility accommodation can be communicated. If people with disabilities can share perspectives on worship spaces, committee service, community engagement, and hospitality with friends, then faith communities can offer dynamic proof of the diversity that all of our traditions strive to celebrate.

Step 2: Reach Out to People Who Are Not Currently Included in Your Community

As mentioned earlier, it is possible that some may have had negative experiences from previous attempts to join a faith community. It is important for you to spread the word about all the accessible and inclusive features your community has to offer. Use your current communication channels and find new ones such as posting on accessibility mapping applications like wheelmap.org/en, AXSmap. com or AccessNow.me, asking advocacy groups to tell their members about you and have your community members share with their social networks. More importantly, get the attention of people with disabilities. Look at section 2- Strategies for Improving Communications (p. 16) in this guide for more information.

Step 3: Build Relationships with People with Disabilities

Remember, not everyone will come to your community fully ready to tell you about their disabilities or their accessibility needs. In fact, many may try to hide their disabilities or avoid entering the community completely. For people to open up, you must first build trust and a relationship.

  • Ask and Listen. Still not sure if you are providing enough? Just ask: “How can I/we help?” Then listen. You don’t need to have all the solutions. Odds are that you probably will never have solutions that would work for everyone. By directly asking people, you can show your support and your care while making more people feel welcome.
  • Ask how a new member would like to participate in the community. Ask what they would need to fully participate in your community. This may be a good practice for all existing and new members of your community.

Progress Checklist: How much have you progressed?

  • We can identify and successfully welcome new members with disabilities.
  • We ensure that new members feel a part of the community and go out of our way to include them.
  • We have tried to incorporate person-centred planning in our community.
  • We understand the different approaches of welcoming people of a variety of disabilities with respect.