Make your house of worship accessible
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that public spaces be accessible to individuals of all abilities, religious organizations are exempt from that law. Still, if your house of worship is not fully accessible, you may want to consider how you can work within your budget to ensure your facility is welcoming to all people, regardless of their mobility level. Church Mutual has identified a few steps you can take:
- Create handicap parking spaces. This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to accommodate people who use canes, walkers or wheelchairs or have other mobility issues. The ADA offers a resource for organizations restriping parking lots to help them add the appropriate size and number of handicap parking spaces.
- Add a wheelchair ramp. If members and visitors need to ascend or descend any steps to reach your place of worship, a ramp would be a big help. You may also consider installing ramps inside the building, as well — for example, if people need to climb steps to reach the altar, a ramp could make it much more accessible.
- Install automatic door openers. Doors — especially heavy-duty commercial doors — can range from difficult to impossible for people with disabilities to open. Doors that can open at the touch of a button can be a game-changer for making your facility more handicap accessible. You can use automatic door openers for both inside and outside doors.
- Provide handicap seating in your house of worship. While some worship spaces are naturally handicap accessible (such as those with individual, movable seats), others are more difficult, such as those constructed many years ago. If you have pews or other, similarly difficult-to-move seating, consider providing an area in which seats have significantly more space between them to make room for a walker or wheelchair.
- Evaluate your bathrooms to see if they are large enough for a wheelchair. In some older facilities, bathrooms are incredibly tight, which is difficult not only for those in a wheelchair, but also for people who need canes or walkers. Ideally, a bathroom will also have grab bars people can use to lower and raise themselves.
- Consider installing an elevator. This is perhaps the most expensive of the listed options, but it can make a big difference if your house of worship has multiple floors in use.
For more information about making your facility safe for all, visit churchmutual.com.