BARRIERS KEEPING THE DISABLED FROM YOUR
CHURCH AND FAITH BASED ORGANIZATION MESSAGES
IN TODAYS COVID TECH MINISTRY
Many years ago, my commute to work on the PA turnpike involved driving through an area in Western Pennsylvania that was susceptible to heavy fog. This fog was at times very thick and it reduced my visibility to a minimum. While the PA turnpike remained open, the heavy fog area was not safely accessible. Churches and faith based organizations today can create the same type of experience for those who are disabled when they can’t use the church’s website. They are open to all, yet they are not accessible to those with disabilities.
While there are the obvious barriers to accessibility like the old and new building structure of churches, there is one barrier that is often overlooked when considering the accessibility to our churches and it’s teachings.
After constructing a wheelchair ramp, adding large-print bulletins, perhaps even buying a few Braille song books and reserving a roped off seating area in the main hall, a church may appear to be “inclusive and welcoming” to all, but major questions remain. Beyond mere physical access, how can a church or faith based organization become a genuinely inclusive faith community? What would it mean, and how would it change the church itself, if the local community of people with disabilities could participate 24/7 in the areas of congregational life, worship and ministry?
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COVID-19 has moved churches to online. Every church and organization has been thrown into the deep end of digital and remote ministry. Churches are having to think imaginatively about how to reach people at home. Many are experimenting with streaming services and prayer groups, using Zoom housegroup meetings and thinking about new ways to include isolated people in worship. They are rethinking church cultures: the ways in which we can “do church” and “be church”, and their website has become their #1 vehicle in communicating their messages.
It has taken a crisis in society to inspire these changes. But disabled people’s groups and faith based organizations have been thinking this way for a long time and considering how to make them more accessible to people in all kinds of situations. Disabled people’s calls for change have not been responded to so quickly, nor so imaginatively, until now.
- People with disabilities are less likely to attend worship services, Bible studies and other church activities than those without disabilities.
- In one study, more than half of special needs parents reported that their child and family adult member with a disability had been excluded at church.
- In another study, almost 1/3 (32.3%) of special needs families said they had left at least one church because their child or adult family member was not included nor felt welcomed.
- 95%+ of churches and faith based organizations websites are not accessible to the 61 Million American internet users with disabilities. This is restrictive at the best of times, but at times of a crisis such as Coronavirus, the restrictions become even more obvious.
The disabled community in today’s environment is crying out for accessibility to Gods word but find themselves isolated even more during this COVID-19 pandemic.
The Outside World
In the outside world of the secular business community, we see the same stories. But the disabled person has a growing voice and recourse against any business who’s website is not inclusive and is not in compliance with the ADA website accessibility act. Federal law now requires all business websites to be fully accessible. The law today….
“Department of Justice (DOJ) reaffirms it’s position that ADA applies to all business websites. In 2018, the DOJ sent a letter to members of Congress which clarified that it believes Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to the websites of public accommodations for business.”
Full details at this link: ADA Compliance For Business Websites
While it is a crime in the business world not to have their website accessible to the disabled community, the churches on the other hand are exempt from the ADA laws and are not required to do anything even when the disabled community is in great need to be at church.
Accountability…Secular Law or Gods Inclusive Law?
When the business community breaks the law they have to pay large financial fines just to welcome the disabled community to their website. The church and the faith based organizations on the other hand, are not required by law to have their website accessible but in doing so in this age of technology ministry, are creating the atmosphere and message of being a non-inclusive ministry to the disabled community. Granted, all churches and faith organizations try to practice “inclusive for all” ministry using the traditional pre COVID-19 methods, but in today’s world, things have changed rapidly. All churches and faith organizations have the opportunity to embrace the new online accessibility technology that’s available to them now to make their websites accessible to the disabled community. It is not their fault they are not compliant because the current technology was not available. But in this time of lockdown and isolation, there is exciting news for all to tap into.
What’s The Answer?….Barriers Become Bridges!
“Every Church And Faith Based Organization Needs To Have Their Website Accessible”
The disabled community is saying “welcome to our world”. Your church and organization is in lockdown similar to us being excluded from your website for years. Churches and faith based organizations are now starting to listen to its people and the disabled community about their websites being non inclusive. Churches and organizations like Willow Creek in Chicago, Christ Lutheran Church in L.A. and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America all have revised their websites to be inclusive, especially in these time of COVID-19.
A disability and accessible church’s website must be designed and driven by a mission and vision for the future and be inclusive, open and accessible to all people, regardless of their disability. When a church recognizes and responds to this overlooked website barrier by removing the non compliance fog that “blocks” the road for their online disabled community of faith, it then becomes a “bridge” to the disabled community.
With these barriers removed, there is maximum visibility and inclusion and the grace of God can be extended to all.
Church, we have a great opportunity to show the love of inclusion! The need is great. The disabled families are struggling for God’s message. The first step in being able to help is understanding the need and make your website inclusive to all.
Jesus met people where they were, and so can we.
Let’s Start Something new
Let’s Build The Bridge!
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