On July 26, 2020, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will celebrate its 30-year anniversary. This landmark civil rights legislation in the United States spelled out rights for people with disabilities in ways similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that spelled out rights for people of color.
As we approach that anniversary, CRC and RCA Disability Concerns will occasionally post articles leading up to that important celebration.
Shortly after the ADA was passed, a team from CRC Disability Concerns recognized its importance for congregations, especially because the ADA explicitly excluded faith communities from its requirements. That team, led by Disability Concerns Director Dr. James Vanderlaan and Mr. Bert Zwiers, produced a well-researched report to the CRC Synod of 1993, which recommended ways that congregations and ministries can become more accessible to people with disabilities using the ADA as a guide. The Synod passed that report and heartily recommended "full compliance with the provisions of the ADA and its accompanying regulations in all portions of the CRC located in the US and Canada."
When people think of "accessibility" they often think only in terms of physical accessibility. This aspect of accessibility is essential for people with physical disabilities to enter church facilities, use restrooms, move freely throughout the building, and so on. But the ADA addresses more than physical accessibility and also calls for accessible communications, opportunities for employment by people with disabilities, accessible education, and more.
The CRC's report, whose shorthand name became, "Toward Full Compliance," was published and distributed to every CRC congregation and ministry and guided the work of Disability Concerns for several years following its passage.
It may be tempting to dismiss a 27-year-old synodical report because of its age, its reference only to the CRC, and its reference to American law for churches in the United States and in Canada, but this report still provides fresh insights for ways that we can enhance ministry today. A scan of the report is attached as well as a Word document in which the scan was run through Optical Character Recognition software. The word document has not been edited and contains errors, but it is close to the original.