Does your church have a disabilities ministry? If not, here are a few ways you can make your church more accessible to people with disabilities:
1. Make sure your church building is accessible to everyone. A good way to begin is with a walk-through, and invite members with disabilities to help. As you walk, look for places where you can improve. For example, is there a ramp as an alternative to the front steps? Can people with limited mobility reach their Sabbath school classes?
2. Be prepared to give a tour of the church to someone who is visually impaired. Don’t forget to show them the bathroom, and let them know what important events are coming, and any special instructions for the day’s activities.
3. Learn the manual sign language alphabet and keep paper and a pen handy at the greeters' desk.
4. Teach the children in your church that people with disabilities have many special abilities. Invite guest speakers with disabilities to children’s Sabbath school classes or the church school. Children would love meeting a seeing eye dog, learning basic sign language, or learning how people in wheelchairs perform daily tasks.
5. Everyone wants to participate. Find out if they’re interested in helping with a Sabbath school class, leading song service, sharing the children’s story, and more. It would be interesting to hear a children’s story read from a braille book, or to learn some of your worship songs in sign language.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask people about their disabilities
7. Include someone with disabilities on the social committee. This will make it easier to plan events that everyone can participate in, so no one is left to sit on the sidelines.
8. Find out if they need transportation and arrange it. You could set up a rotating schedule of drivers.
9. If you don’t know what to do, ask! For example, if you're not sure if you should dish up a plate at potluck for someone who is blind, ask them how they prefer to do it. Everyone has different preferences, and they'll be glad you asked to help.
10. If people with disabilities attend your church, get their opinions on how you’re doing. Reevaluate your efforts frequently and make any improvements you can.
Cassie Martsching is the communication director at AdventSource in Lincoln, Nebraska.