Most people in churches want to include people with disabilities in the life and ministry of the congregation. Most people understand that the Bible gives clear reasons for full inclusion of all people in the life of a congregation.
But making changes of buildings, programs, and attitudes requires a cost.
If your church is part of a denomination, have you considered your regional body - classis, presbytery, judicatory, regional synod? Many such regional bodies have grant funds to assist churches in various ways. Find out whether accessibility improvements might be eligible for funding.
For building improvements, there are two foundations of which we are aware that will give accessibility grants to churches in specific regions:
Ontario: The Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the government of Ontario, distributes its funding to charities and not-for-profits in four sectors: Arts and Culture, Environment, Sports and Recreation, and Human and Social Services. A number of churches have received funding for accessibility improvements. Be advised that the Foundation receives its funding through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Your church will want to consider carefully the wisdom of accepting money that is gained this way. If your church chose to accept or not accept money from the Trillium Foundation, we'd love to hear about it. Please comment.
Chicagoland: The Retirement Research Foundation provides the Accessible Faith Grant. This program enables houses of worship in Lake, Cook and DuPage counties to make accessibility improvements to their facilities. The program has awarded well over 100 grants to religious congregations to make their facilities more accessible. For more information, go to www.rrf.org and click on "For Grant Applicants" or call Naomi Stanhaus at 773-714-8080.
United States: Christian Fund for the Disabled is a modest grant program administered by Joni and Friends. CFD provides one-time grants to qualifying individuals in cooperation with (i.e., endorsement by) churches or Christian organizations. Requests must reflect a disability-related need. It is beneficial for the applicant to receive matching funds from their endorsing organization. Grants are also available to evangelical churches and organizations for educational grants up to a maximum of $1,500.
United States: Pathways, a Chicago-based nonprofit, gives grants of up to $1000 to houses of faith and religious schools across the U.S. through their Open Hearts and Junior Open Hearts Awards. Cash grants awarded annually (deadline August 1) for projects that enable individuals of all abilities to participate in worship, ministries, leadership roles, and religious education.
Canada: The Enabling Accessibility Fund is a federal Grants and Contributions program that supports capital costs of construction and renovations related to improving physical accessibility and safety for people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces. From installing automated door openers, constructing a universally designed office or retrofitting a washroom with an accessible toilet, grab bars and taps, the Enabling Accessibility Fund works to enable Canadians with disabilities to participate in their community and the economy.
If you know of other organizations that provide grant money to make churches accessible, please let us know.