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Categories of Accessibility
Mobility. Accessibility to the building and grounds including parking, entrances, restrooms, and worship space for wheelchair users and others.
Mobility issues have been the focus of most accessibility surveys. To the extent that the life of a congregation or community focuses on a building used for worship, education, and service, mobility accessibility is very crucial for persons with physical disabilities to feel included.
Hearing and Language -- This category is divided into two sections, each of which are provided for in different ways.
Two separate emblems are possible in this category.
Hearing. Assistive Listening Devices (ALD) and other aids are provided for persons who are hard of hearing.
For many people hearing issues develop as they grow older. This can be addressed differently than for persons who are deaf and cannot hear at all.
Communication via the spoken word is very important in our faith communities and thus full inclusion will mean accommodating to persons who are experiencing limitations in their hearing ability.
Sign Language. Sign language interpretation is provided to
enable communication between hearing persons and those who are deaf.
Because of our society's reliance upon the spoken word, persons who are deaf are easily excluded. They must rely on a different form of language than those who can hear. Since language often defines culture, persons who are deaf often see themselves as belonging to a distinct Deaf culture. At the same time, Deaf persons must still interact in the larger culture for many activities.
Congregations who provide sign language interpretation of the spoken word are thus essentially bi-cultural congregations, similar to congregations in the U.S. who provide for Spanish speakers by translating their services into Spanish. While not every congregation may become fully bi-cultural, a congregation can start out by providing sign language interpretation for the essential elements of its worship.
Vision. Visual aids are provided for persons with vision impairments.
The emphasis on the spoken word also spills over into an emphasis on the written word as well. While persons who are blind and cannot see at all often have their own accommodations (canes, assistive animals, Braille materials), persons with vision impairments can often see with the assistance of large print materials and the reinforcement of the spoken word.
Such materials are crucial to keep persons with vision loss from drifting away from participation with the rest of the community.
Support. The congregation supports inclusion of persons with disabilities through awareness-raising, education, support groups, and provision for individual differences in gifts, behavior, and learning style.
This is the category in which attitudes of inclusion or exclusion often come through in ways which are not at first fully recognized.
What does it mean to make the congregation truly accessible to persons such as these:
These are just a few of the issues that could be cited. By offering support, a congregation works to provide not only a general welcoming atmosphere, but also takes steps to accommodate to the needs of specific person of whom they become aware.