As faithful followers of Christ, we desire to come together in fellowship. This includes meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters with mobility challenges. In this blog, we share five ways to improve accessibility and ensure inclusivity at your next event.
Designate Specific Handicap Parking and A Passenger Drop-off Area
Ideally, handicapped parking spaces should be as close to the entrance as possible and include designated signage. You can purchase handicap signs from a supplier or design a custom sign with your church logo. You will also want to consider the width of these parking spaces. Some individuals require a ramp to transfer in and out of a vehicle, so large access aisles are necessary. For safety purposes, ensure these aisles are level and free of obstacles or debris.
Ensure Accessible Routes to the Building and Entrance
Strive to provide accessible and safe routes that connect handicapped parking spaces to a building entrance. Pathways need to be at least 36 inches wide to accommodate the width of an average wheelchair. Again, the path should be level and free of obstacles or debris for safety. Small rock or pebble is best if there is no designated sidewalk because large gravel makes ambulation difficult, if not impossible, in a wheelchair. Installation of a ramp will provide independent access, which is important to individuals with mobility challenges.
Provide Handicap Accessible Restrooms
Handicapped restrooms are essential for safety and dignity. A whole bathroom remodel may not be an option, but providing a spacious enough area to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs is critical. A family-style bathroom without stalls can provide this accessibility. If you don't have ADA-height toilets, no worries! There are plenty of risers and other adaptive equipment available for purchase.
Design An Accessible Floor Plan for Independence
In valuing independence and self-reliance, consider your floor plan; event spaces should allow for free and autonomous use of mobility devices. When planning your meeting space layout, offer wheelchair-accessible seating in multiple locations; this means don't put a chair at every seat! By doing so, we empower individuals to easily find a seat and avoid having to ask for assistance with moving a chair.
Plan For An Accessible Meeting Space
Lastly, think about how your meeting space will be used. Will there be interactive activities? Or will attendees be at their seats a majority of the time? If your event requires people to move around (e.g., breakout rooms, group activities), provide a broad margin around each table to accommodate wheelchairs. Wide aisles that allow for independent turning are appreciated! Be mindful of potential obstacles, such as floor-length tablecloths, that may impede those using wheelchairs, walkers, or canes. Safety first!
In conclusion, as followers of Christ, it is our duty to ensure that all members of our community are welcomed and embraced. By implementing these accessibility measures, we can create an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of physical mobility challenges, can fully participate in our events and experience the love and fellowship our faith teaches us to share. May God's blessings be with you as you make your next event a genuinely inclusive and welcoming experience.