I’ve recently been in a discussion about #disabilityinchurch. While of course there will always be room for improvement, I’m so thankful for how sensitive the churches we’ve most recently attended have been.


What I’ve seen? Good sound systems, hearing assistance devices, or t-coils. . . And the seniors in church joking with me about my “old man hearing aids.”


I’ve seen plenty of large print bulletins and large print Bibles–not just on one side of the sanctuary to pick up if you need one, but placed in every pew.  I’ve seen requests in the bulletin to avoid wearing heavy perfume.


I’ve seen assistance, ramps, and drop off points for those with limited mobility.  


I’ve seen coaching from the Sunday school leaders how to help engage all the kids, when illiteracy is a factor. . . working hard so that no kid is embarrassed by that. Encouraging teachers to deal with disruptions gently, because those disruptions are often masking invisible disabilities.


I’ve seen dishes at potlucks clearly labelled for people who have dietary limitations — and people being conscientious to bring a variety of foods so all can participate in the meal.


Pastors being transparent about mental health struggles, and pointing to good sources of counseling, community, and medication. Communion being offered with both grape juice and wine; regular and gluten free bread.


Pastors saying, “Please stand, as you are able.” Pastors not showing any signs of distraction when kids/adults can’t sit still throughout the service.


I am sure that were our family more directly impacted by various abilities, I would be more aware of what could be done or is already being done. I know that I have blind spots.  I am thankful for the sensitivity and inclusion that I’ve experienced in our churches in Bahamas, Florida, and DC.


I know that many people and families still experience barriers in churches.  I know there are struggles to get to church for corporate worship, challenges to be part of the daily life of the church.  I see people with disabilities having to go the extra mile to participate — and I wish we all in the church would be better at going the extra mile instead.


I can’t imagine a church or environment with no barriers for people with disabilities.  But I can imagine growth in relating to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord regardless of abilities, and working together to minister side by side.




Elseweb, a friend commented:  “Jesus is used to people being carried in to be healed by Him. Maybe the difficulties in access are in fact being used to bring the able-bodied into His presence as they carry in (or improve access for) those who aren’t? If all the access problems are solved, the disabled, who have other problems besides access, might be assumed to be able to go it alone. God’s ways are mysterious.”

Among other things, this discussion on  is a reminder to me of our complete dependence on God, and our interdependence with our brothers and sisters in Christ.


5 comments for “#DisabilityInChurch

  1. February 13, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    This is all good, but often good intentions are not paired with understanding.

    Specifically, as a person in a wheelchair, I consider “stand as you are able” to be silly, at best, and condescending, at worst. I know the intent is good, but seriously, what are people thinking? That when we hear “please stand,” we panic and wonder what to do? That others will judge us for not standing, and need a reminder that we can’t help it?

    All “stand as you are able” does it point a finger and single us out as different because of a superficial condition, which is the last thing we want.

    Lest I sound too grumpy, I’m thankful for the efforts being made towards accessibility. Our church is very good in that way.

    • February 16, 2018 at 2:56 pm

      I hear you on the good intentions combined with lack of understanding can do more harm that good. And yes, the “silly at best, condescending at worst” aspect of how some so-called accommodations really aren’t what is needed.

      Interestingly, I’ve heard from others (those who are weak rather than visibly limited), that the “stand as you are able” felt freeing to them. . .

      One friend shared that bright lights (and strobe lights *shudder*) trigger her migraines. Another mentioned her mother’s macular degeneration made bright lights in church much needed.

      In my experience, churches who have long-time members who acquire various disabilities are quick to adapt to what those members need. But at times, churches can seem “unwelcoming” to new people because they don’t have the accommodations needed — and don’t even think to ask. What do you think?

      • February 22, 2018 at 5:07 pm

        I should also note that, while accessibility accommodations are relatively simple for new construction, there are older buildings to which adaptation would be difficult, very expensive, and sometimes impossible. There are places I just know I’m never going, and the libertarian in me accepts that. No one should be forced to accommodate me. Maybe some don’t care, but others can’t. I’ll be OK.

  2. February 22, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    You would think that consulting the people you are trying to accommodate would be instinctive, but it doesn’t appear to be so. If it was, builders would know, for example, that painting the nearest parking spaces blue doesn’t necessarily make them accessible. An electric door opener, inconveniently placed, is not as helpful as intended. And there’s more to being “welcoming” than accessibility–if accommodations seem like an afterthought, e.g., a ramp to the back door, that’s not very friendly.

    Accessibility requirements for most aren’t really that complicated, if you just know what they are, but, to be fair, many of them are things you could never expect the average person to think of. It would make sense to ask the actual consumer. Have someone in a wheelchair assess your accessibility, not just at the door, but all around and through the property. Have the old folks check your sound system.

    However, it needs to be understood that everything can’t be made perfect for everyone. Your lights situation is one example of that. Compromises will be necessary at times.

    • February 24, 2018 at 3:36 am

      You are so right. It’s easy for people to assume they know what others need/want (and I’m thinking much more broadly than just this particular convo!)

      And I laughed at “Have the old folks check your sound system. . .” Because I’m hard of hearing, and I used to joke with seniors in our church that I have “old man hearing aids” — the first pair I had was the exact same type most of the older men at church had, too! I certainly do notice when sound is done well or not, though usually can adapt to most situations.

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