Every week as people arrive through the front doors of our church building, we see all types of people. People that we love dearly: young, old, families, singles, teens, college students, etc. In the midst of those people are those that come in wheelcharis, walkers, carry oxygen tanks, have arthritis, can't read well, are blind. These members and attenders are the ones who come to my mind when we talk about disabilities and worship.
In every case, worship begins in the parking lot. Can those who need special parking spaces park easily? Is the parking lot cleared of snow and debris? Is there a set of doors that either someone is there to open or have an automatic door opener? Or better yet, do you have valet parking for those who have trouble walking from the parking lot to the front door so they don't have to walk so far?
Once our members are in the building, do they have to hurdle various tables, displays, and crowds of people to hang up their coats on the coat rack? Can they find their way into the sanctuary easily without obstacles such as steps, or a hidden elevator in some corner at the opposite end of the building?
Can they find a seat that they feel comfortable in sitting for an hour. Let's face it, typically those wooden pews (the ones with no padding) are not such good sitters for people who have no issues, but for those who have arthritis, other and other physical impairments, may find them particularly difficult to sit in for an hour or so.
During worship, can they worship with the congregation? can they see the screens? Hold the hymnal and Bible, Read the order of worship? Can they hear the minister? (Loop technology, and other devices are beneficial).
After the service during fellowship, do they feel a part of the congregation or are they perceived as a specticle? When they leave, they have equipment, (motorized wheelchair, etc) or need special attention? Are the same obsticales mentioned before upon arriving haunt them as they leave as well?
I'm sure that I am only touching the surface, and not addressing other areas, but these areas of concern have a growing awareness in our culture, and we as worship leaders, need to be aware of all of these matters when the opportunity presents itself.
What improvements have you made in the past to aid your members and attenders to become integrated on Sunday during worship?