In the United States and most probably in other countries, people with disabilities are often downgraded. You can only imagine what it feels like for a blind person to order in a restaurant or an individual who uses a wheelchair going on a plane ride. The challenges can be every day for these disabled individuals to join in even the simplest activities. Going to church doesn’t exclude this, and sometimes those with disabilities don’t have nice stories to tell when they get home – only that they didn’t find it a place for comfort and connection.
Opportunities to help the disabled are right in our very eyes, especially with finding them a faith community. Here are ways that a church can reach out to them and make them better believers of togetherness, connection, and spirituality.
- Create A Space For Them. Most churches place speakers outside to accommodate the people who are not able to get inside during service as well for those who live nearby. It would also be great if a screen were placed in a quiet room, so families with autistic children and other disabled individuals can comfortably watch and listen to the service. This can make all the difference for them and may reduce their worries and anxieties about going to church.
- Encourage Them To Join Ministry. Churchgoers naturally look for a connection with others and an opportunity to serve and make a difference. One thing to consider is how the church community can make it accessible for the disabled to get involved as well. As an active member, you can open the topic of encouraging them to join ministry activities, particularly those that are possible for them too. These activities may include providing coffee or greeting service, nursery duty, and powerpoint presentations. There are always many disabled persons who are willing to serve if they are given a chance.
- Provide Accessibility. There was an article that talked about a disabled person in a wheelchair who stopped going to church when he moved into a new place, simply because the restroom was in the basement. This is why church leaders need to make sure that restrooms are made available for those with disabilities. Aisles can also be made wider, so they can make their way to the front when they want to or when they are invited to come up. Ministers or deacons can also be assigned for them so they can make communion comfortably and not miss out on doing what they went there for – to practice their faith.
- Label Reserved Areas. Just as families with autistic kids have an assigned section, the church can also label areas for disabled members. Some of them have sensory processing disorders, which makes a normal-volume of music seem like it’s deafening or warm-colored lights that can be overpowering for them. Providing them with a labeled section that quieter than the church hall or designed with curtains can make them feel comfortable and will encourage them to attend service. For the deaf, it would be designating them to a place where they can see the interpreter.
An individual with a disability attends a service in church to learn more about Jesus and find for himself a community that will help him strengthen his faith. He wants to be considered as a part of Christ’s family like the rest, not someone who is broken and needs to be repaired.
If you are disabled, approach a church member, and air your concerns to him, give him a chance to help you. If you are not disabled and desire to help the wounded, talk to a member and find ways to make these adjustments possible for them, so that they will feel welcomed and valued.