This page contains a link to the diocese's guidelines on disability and inclusion, Welcome, Inclusion, Respect - A Commitment to a Church Open to All, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
But, if you only have 3 minutes to spare, then read this summary section
- We recognise that including disabled people in the life of the church is a Biblical mandate.
- We acknowledge that this is an area which the church needs to address proactively.
- Disabled people should be able to access our churches, not just as members of the congregation, but as people who may also contribute to leadership.
- We would all agree that we would want to fully include disabled people in the life of the Church, and now we are required by law to ensure that we do not discriminate against disabled people. The Equality Act applies to churches, as “service providers”, and as voluntary organisations, and they are required to comply with this legislation.
- This legislation gives us a very broad definition of the term disability: “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
- There are 10 million disabled people in the UK.
- Wheelchair-users are about 7.5% of all “disabled” people.
- 95% of people will experience a disabling condition at some time in their lives.
- There are many “hidden” disabilities: for example, dyslexia, epilepsy, arthritis and other conditions which cause significant levels of pain, diabetes, mental health problems, autism spectrum conditions.
- “Disabled People” are all different, all individual, and even people with the same impairment have differing needs and experiences.
- The Equality Act is anticipatory – it is not sufficient to wait until someone with a particular need turns up in church – we should be thinking how our welcome, worship, teaching and other activities can include everyone.
- The Equality Act requires us to make “reasonable adjustments” to features which could be barriers to disabled people. “Reasonable” is not defined in law, but it is recognised, for example, that a small church with a small congregation may well be less able to provide certain facilities than a large church or cathedral with more resources.
- However, there is much that can be done at little or no cost to improve our welcome and accessibility for disabled people.
- Listed buildings or those of special historic interest are not exempt from the Equality Act.
- There are a great many resources available to guide us in this process – key ones are listed in section 8 of this guide, and Access Audits are also available.
- Few churches will be able to do all that this guide suggests. But we can all improve on what we do and right attitudes matter most.