We want buildings to be as accessible as possible but before you do anything to a building, remember you must speak to your Archdeacon or DAC Secretary.
- An access ramp or entrance is for everyone; it helps wheelchair users but also anyone who might find negotiating steps tricky and that includes parents with children in ‘buggies’.
(Ramps need handrails and edges too: see ‘Important Note’ below)
- Steps: It might be that there are steps into the building. Even a small step (10mm) can hinder a wheelchair or mobility aid. If the step can’t be removed or altered, at least mark it so it’s obvious (a white or yellow strip will also help someone with a visual impairment). A larger step may require a ramp - if that can’t be a permanent ramp, have a removable one to hand and make sure that someone is on hand who knows where it is and how to use it safely.
- Sets of steps are often better overcome with a permanent ramp. These can be expensive. Is there another entrance which might be easier to make accessible?
- Where do I go now I’m in? Once in the building, is there somewhere for a wheelchair, mobility aid or children’s buggy to be positioned? Some people are able to transfer from a wheelchair into a chair or even a pew - they will want to have their wheelchair easily accessible again. If they wish to stay in their wheelchair, make sure they have good sight lines and with the main congregation.
- If there are chairs, make sure some have arms that help people get up and down.
- A toilet is ‘accessible’ (not disabled; unusable or not working) - if there is just one toilet, it should be an accessible one. Able-bodied people are quite welcome to use accessible toilets as well as regular ones as long as they are not preventing a person with a disability using it of course! (Their need may be urgent.)
The Grove Booklet, W235 ‘Worship and Disability: A Kingdom for All’ (2018) costs £3.95 (+p&p) could be useful in auditing your church building.
- The whole area of physical access to buildings is complex and must meet the requirements of the law (The Building Regulations).
- Many church buildings will also need permission from the diocese (a Faculty) especially where there needs to be a change to the fabric of the building.
- Never do anything without first speaking to your Archdeacon or DAC Secretary.