Is Your Church Accessible?
It takes more than a ramp to minister to those with disabilities.

July marked the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although many spaces have made great leaps to become more accessible, a recent article in Nonprofit Quarterly pointed out that we still have an incredibly long way to go when it comes to making this world an accessible place for individuals with disabilities.

One man in the Bronx recently sued his church. He says he was left unattended by the usher who was put in charge of assisting him, resulting in him being trampled and injured by people entering the church who tripped over his wheelchair. Another woman sued a church in Texas because she says when she complained about the lack of accessibility in the restroom at her church, leaders allegedly banned her from worshiping at their church. The U.S. Department of Justice recently sued the state of Florida for segregating and isolating disabled children into nursing homes, when they could have been eligible for homecare.

Though these are extreme examples of a lack of compassion or caution when assisting individuals with disabilities, an important theme arises: It's not just about building an elevator or adding a ramp in your church building. It's about becoming a people that goes the extra mile to assist and care for those with disabilities–that's what really matters. Be proactive in ministering to those with disabilities.

In light of the anniversary of ADA, here are additional insights to help churches from ChurchLawAndTax.com:

• Lee Dean's article on the most practical ways to provide accessibility and care to individuals with disabilities. For example, he advises that if you don't have basement access for those in wheelchairs, move the Sunday school class they want to take up to the main level. His point is that we should be accommodating, not remodeling.

• ADA affects mental illness as well. I recently interviewed Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds and editor of Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership, about growing up in a church that didn't address or know how to really care for her family when her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She writes candidly about how the church can better love these individuals in her recent GFL blog post, "We Need a Better Response to Mental Illness."

• Churches need to be doing all they can in order to create sanctuaries that are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Take our quiz to determine how accessible your sanctuary is, and check out our download, Making Your Church Accessible.

• ADA also affects which questions are allowed in employment interviews and which ones are prohibited. Richard Hammar offers a table of appropriate and inappropriate questions for quick viewing.

• And check out this Christianity Today article about the way Gordon College changed the face of disability.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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