An Experience of Being a Wheelchair User in the Church

By Brent Dodd

 

I would just like to express my experience as a wheelchair user or electric scooter, which I prefer to use. 

I used to go to a Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols each Christmas, in fact it was the highlight of Christmas for me, I loved it. I was well aware that I could block views so I would go to the back of the cathedral so as not to spoil the experience for anyone else, usually down the side opposite the pulpit. I never had a problem and I was a part of the experience. I could sit comfortably on my scooter out of everyone's way yet had freedom of movement to stand to join in singing carols and felt included in the proceedings.

However, that all stopped 5 or 6 years ago. I stopped going when wheelchair users were ushered to one part of the church, behind the pulpit all together in one corner. That was not inclusive as far as I felt, I was made to feel different and excluded from the 'normal' people. We were all corralled together, all us 'disabled'. I could not sit on my scooter as I would block the view for people behind me and as I like to sit beside my wife I had to suffer nearly 2 hours of discomfort sitting on a folding wooden chair which to be honest I felt was in danger of collapsing too. (It didn't thank goodness but a nearby neighbours did. Folding chairs are not the best on hard surfaces.)

I did write to explain my experiences but was told that it was that way as to provide suitable access to disabled people. Which again I felt that I was being grouped as a "disabled person", and not a "person". I have never been back since and I do miss it. 
 

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