If church leaders think both big and small, and consider all the possibilities, they should be able to increase accessibility to every area of the building. One helpful step is to take an accessibility survey. Evaluate every accessibility point of the church, both into and out of the building, and within the structure. Below are some simple tips to help make your church accessible to all.
Transportation. Churches can help make people with disabilities aware of public transportation options and help with scheduling. On some occasions, a church will provide its own transportation using a van equipped with a chairlift, which can accommodate four people in wheelchairs.
Parking lots, curbs, and walkways. Create designated parking areas closest to the main pedestrian entrance. Make sure these areas are adequately identified by signs and by blue boundary lines. These parking spaces should be at least 96 inches wide and be level with surface slopes. Allow for sufficient room in the parking space itself for the loading and unloading of wheelchairs. Once the wheelchair is out of the vehicle, accommodate access with a curb cut and ramp with the least possible slope.
Entryways and exits. Install a ramp, which can help people with wheelchairs, walkers, or canes. Ramps should have edge protection and adequate flat landing areas at each end. Handrails are another helpful option. The mechanisms used to open and close doors should also be easy for everyone to operate. One solution is to install automatic sliding doors, or doors that are opened by pressing a button. A less costly option is to install door hardware that can be easily grasped with one hand and that does not require excessive twisting or pinching of the wrist to open.
Multi-level buildings. Find a way to move people between floors. Elevators are the most expensive option for moving people between floors. Chair lifts are another primary option in moving people between building levels.
The sanctuary: Churches can either have a separate disability seating area or make accommodations throughout the auditorium. The latter choice helps individuals feel more included and welcomed. Any sanctuary seating option that mainstreams people with disabilities without violating fire codes should be explored.
Flooring: The key phrase to keep in mind for your flooring material and construction is "slip resistant." That nice, shiny, waxed, hard-surface floor may be pleasing to the eye but can pose a slip and fall risk to those with accessibility issues. Carpet should be firmly attached with a level texture and have a maximum pile thickness of one-half inch.