Author:
David Pereyra, Vera Roberts
Subject:
Religious Studies
Material Type:
Module
Level:
Adult Education
Tags:
Accessibility, Community Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion, Faith-Based Organizations, Inclusion, Inclusive Design, Worship, disability, multi-faith
License:
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0
Language:
English
Media Formats:
Downloadable docs

Our Doors Are Open - Welcoming People with Disabilities at Places of Worship

Our Doors Are Open - Welcoming People with Disabilities  at Places of Worship

Lesson Overview

About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability.  Many are not having their needs met because of barriers to participation in rituals, worship and faith community activities at their places of worship. To truly empower people with disabilities to become agents of positive change in their local communities, we recognize that everyone has a role to play. Our Doors Are Open seminar helps all faith communities to understand how to open their mind, hearts, and doors to people with all kinds of abilities. Traditionally, faith communities position people with disabilities as recipients of care and not as givers. Most faith communities do not have proper representation of people with disabilities throughout their activities despite a desire to be open and inclusive. This disparity is often the result of lack of understanding of how to think about disability differently. In this seminar, students will learn the social model of disability, which positions disability as a function of exclusively designed environments rather than a lack of ability. Our Doors Are Open Seminar will guide students on how to see their activities and situations through an inclusive lens as well as how to take actions to improve inclusion and achieve the welcoming goals of congregations.

Section 1: Introduction

Our Doors Are Open

Our Doors Are Open helps faith communities across Ontario to welcome people with all abilities by creating communities that:

  • Recognize barriers for people with disabilities to participate fully;
  • Brainstorm simple and creative solutions to remove these barriers; and
  • Welcome and fully include people with disabilities in their community.

Video "Inclusion of People with Disabilities"

The video is a good general introduction and it is on Resources.

What is Inclusive Thinking?

  • Inclusive thinking means keeping the diversity and uniqueness of each individual in mind. The needs of individuals with disabilities are more diverse than those of people of able body. A mass solution does not work well for us.
  • Inclusive thinking means changing habits and behaviours. Your community may need to consciously bring inclusive thinking into all activities before these inclusive habits are developed. Getting to know what you need to think about to be inclusive can be easier than you expect.
  • We recommend as a first strategy a very simple approach: Just ask. Just listen.

Description

About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability.  Many are not having their needs met because of barriers to participation in rituals, worship and faith community activities at their places of worship. To truly empower people with disabilities to become agents of positive change in their local communities, we recognize that everyone has a role to play. Our Doors Are Open seminar helps all faith communities to understand how to open their mind, hearts, and doors to people with all kinds of abilities. Traditionally, faith communities position people with disabilities as recipients of care and not as givers. Most faith communities do not have proper representation of people with disabilities throughout their activities despite a desire to be open and inclusive. This disparity is often the result of lack of understanding of how to think about disability differently. In this seminar, students will learn the social model of disability which positions disability as a function of exclusively designed environments rather than a lack of ability. Our Doors Are Open Seminar will guide students in how to see their activities and environments through an inclusive lens as well as how to take actions to improve inclusion and achieve the welcoming goals of congregations.

Our Doors Are Open

Objectives

  • Present simple and creative ideas to help increase inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities in worship services, events and all activities of a community.
  • Introduce a series of clear and straightforward suggestions in order to promote inclusive thinking in your community.
  • Share current approaches to understanding and explaining accessibility and inclusion.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Knowledge

Students will:

  • Reflect critically that people with disabilities should be able to enjoy their spiritual beliefs and actively participate alongside other members of their faith communities.
  • Learn how to truly empower people with disabilities to become agents of positive change in their local communities, by recognizing that everyone has a role to play.
  • Understand how to help all faith communities to understand how to open their mind, hearts, and doors to people with all kinds of abilities through development of resources that support the Guide for Accessible Congregations. 
  1. Competence

Students will be:

  • Able to identify unmet needs for people with disabilities within faith-based communities.
  • Able to understand how a faith community can become more accessible.
  • Able to help people with disabilities be able to practice their spiritual beliefs and actively participate alongside other members of their faith communities.
  • Able to understand how inclusive design thinking can remove barriers to inclusion.

Evaluation Methods

  • In the first three sections, students will be asked to carry out or plan specific activities from the Guide for Accessible Congregations within their faith communities and to report on it in written format (e.g. essay, how to guide, infographic) that demonstrates an understanding of the reading or key concepts.
  • Students will discuss topics related to the assignment including challenges or questions that they may have about how to implement the activity within their faith community.
  • In the final section, students will create a pastoral activity or resource based on a new activity or an activity from sections1-3, that can be freely shared by Our Doors are Open Project as an open education resource under a creative commons license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/ca/) with attribution to the student author.  

Section 2: Getting Started

Topics for Debate Forum

  • Discuss your experience implementing or planning the activity in your community
  • Share and/or resolve challenges experienced when implementing or planning the activity in your community
  • Ask questions to the instructor who has experience in implementing the program

Evaluation

  • Review the “Have You Tried These Things” list on p. 11 of Guide for Accessible Congregations:
    • Establish procedures for welcoming new members, including members with disabilities.
    • Ask the new member what they most want to get from the community.
    • If you know that a person with a disability is planning to visit your place of worship, ask before their first visit if they will want any help during their visit.
    • Review the community’s ability to provide accessibility accommodations for new members, such as large print books, wheelchair access, and interpreting.
    • If a person with disabilities is going to participate in one of your groups, focus on discovering their different skills and identifying ways they could contribute those gifts.

Carry out one of the activities or create a plan for how you could implement the activity in your congregation. Prepare a document or multimedia object (e.g. report, how-to guide, infographic, video) about your actions/plan that demonstrates an understanding of the reading and key concepts.

If the student is going to have a meeting in his/her community you can suggest ideas to break the ice, before starting such as:

  1. Ask questions until most of the group joins in [* you can get the audience to clap, stand up, raise the hand, etc.]:

    1. “how many of you have a disability?”

    2. “how many of you have a family member with disability?”

    3. “how many of you have a friend with disability?”

    4. “How many of you have a co-worker or neighbour with disability?”

    5. “How many of you know someone who has a close family/friend with a disability?”

  2. Video

    1. Find a video highlighting the values of inclusion/accessibility. After watching the video, ask audience for comments. Make sure that the video is captioned.

      1. ​​​​​​​Option 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SnXBKEfr2s

      2. Option 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjluLV1F-UI

  3. Singing

    1. Choose a song that fits the presentation. Use multiple instruments if possible.

    2. Learn to sign a song

  4. Ask participants :

    1. ​​​​​​​"How were you welcomed on your first day in this community? What keeps you coming back?" - and to write them on post-its. Highlight welcoming qualities and emphasize that the workshop is about extend these welcome to people with disabilities.

    2. Following the first question, ask participants - "What does disability mean to you?" to get the group to define "disabilities".

 

Learning Goals

  • To understand concepts, definitions, and expressions of disability
  • To learn about issues of inclusion and exclusion in church and community

Required Readings

  1. Inclusive Design Research Centre. Guide for Accessible Congregations. Toronto: IDRC, 2018. Pages 1-11.
  2. Goldstain, Penina and Melinda Jones Ault, “Including Individuals with Disabilities in a Faith Community: A Framework and Example.” Journal of Disabilities & Religion, 19:1, 1-14. 2015.

Evaluation

  • Review the “Have You Tried These Things” list on p. 11 of Guide for Accessible Congregations:
    • Establish procedures for welcoming new members, including members with disabilities.
    • Ask the new member what they most want to get from the community.
    • If you know that a person with a disability is planning to visit your place of worship, ask before their first visit if they will want any help during their visit.
    • Review the community’s ability to provide accessibility accommodations for new members, such as large print books, wheelchair access, and interpreting.
    • If a person with disabilities is going to participate in one of your groups, focus on discovering their different skills and identifying ways they could contribute those gifts.

Carry out one of the activities or create a plan for how you could implement the activity in your congregation. Prepare a document or multimedia object (e.g. report, how to guide, infographic, video) about your actions/plan that demonstrates an understanding of the reading and key concepts.

Video What is Inclusion?

The video is a good general introduction on the topic. It is on resources.

Section 3: Getting Organized

Evaluation

Review the checklists on pp. 14-16 and complete them alone or with a committee in your congregation if available. Select one or two items marked “not yet” and create a plan for addressing those barriers.

Topics for Debate Forum

  • Discuss your experience completing the checklists and/or planning solutions to barriers in your community
  • Share your experience when completing the checklist or planning the solution in your community
  • Ask questions to the instructor who has experience in implementing the program

Learning Goals

  • Understand barriers to accessibility within your congregations and the steps required to mitigate them.

Required Readings

  1. Inclusive Design Research Centre. Guide for Accessible Congregations. Toronto: IDRC, 2018. Pages 12-17.
  • David W. Anderson, “The Task of Christian Education in Creating an Inclusive Worldview,” a resource provided by the Christian Educators’ Journal.

Evaluation

Review the checklists on pp. 14-16 and complete them alone or with a committee in your congregation if available. Select one or two items marked “not yet” and create a plan for addressing those barriers.

Section 4: Getting Down to Work

Evaluation

  • Review the “Have You Tried These Things” list:
    • Set up the space to be generous to users of wheelchairs and scooters.
    • Provide accessible seating areas in the front, middle, and back.
    • Reserve seating for people with disabilities and their companions to sit together.
    • Included adjustable lighting in your worship space.
    • Promote a fragrance-free environment.

and “Progress Checklist” on p. 27 of Guide for Accessible Congregations:

    • We recognize the way physical space can support or remove a person’s feeling of welcome.
    • We have considered the setup of the room and how people with disabilities will interact with the environment.
    • Everybody in our community knows that service animals are welcome in all public spaces, with few exceptions (e.g., food preparation areas), and can be dogs or other animals.
    • We provided guidance to congregants on not petting or interacting with service animals who are working (e.g., wearing a harness).
    • We have an indoor or outdoor relief area for service animals and provide them with a water bowl.
    • We accommodate transportation when possible (e.g., arrange carpool).
    • We completed the accessibility checklist as a launching point into promoting a culture of accessibility.
    • We have used and promoted technology and apps to report back on how well we are doing in terms of inclusion and accessibility
    • We now have more items that are checked “yes” under Architectural or Structural Barriers on the Brief Accessibility Checklist.

Carry out one of the “have you tried this” activities or create a plan for how you could implement the activity in your congregation or consider how your congregation exemplifies/met/embodies an item from the “progress checklist.” Prepare a document or multimedia object (e.g. report, how to guide, infographic, video) based on your activity/thinking that demonstrates your understanding of the reading and key concepts.

Topics for Debate Forum

  • How can a faith community become more accessible?

Learning Outcomes

  • Critical thought on the church’s practice of mission to, with, and alongside of people with disabilities

Required Readings

  • Inclusive Design Research Centre. Guide for Accessible Congregations. Toronto: IDRC, 2018. Pages 18-27.
  • Thomas E. Reynolds, “Theology and Disability: Changing the Conversation.” Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, 16:33-48. 2012. 

 

Video Training for Accessible Congregations

 

Evaluation

  • Review the “Have You Tried These Things” list:
    • Set up the space to be generous to users of wheelchairs and scooters.
    • Provide accessible seating areas in the front, middle, and back.
    • Reserve seating for people with disabilities and their companions to sit together.
    • Included adjustable lighting in your worship space.
    • Promote a fragrance-free environment.

and “Progress Checklist” on p. 27 of Guide for Accessible Congregations:

    • We recognize the way physical space can support or remove a person’s feeling of welcome.
    • We have considered the setup of the room and how people with disabilities will interact with the environment.
    • Everybody in our community knows that service animals are welcome in all public spaces, with few exceptions (e.g., food preparation areas), and can be dogs or other animals.
    • We provided guidance to congregants on not petting or interacting with service animals who are working (e.g., wearing a harness).
    • We have an indoor or outdoor relief area for service animals and provide them with a water bowl.
    • We accommodate transportation when possible (e.g., arrange carpool).
    • We completed the accessibility checklist as a launching point into promoting a culture of accessibility.
    • We have used and promoted technology and apps to report back on how well we are doing in terms of inclusion and accessibility
    • We now have more items that are checked “yes” under Architectural or Structural Barriers on the Brief Accessibility Checklist.

Carry out one of the “have you tried this” activities or create a plan for how you could implement the activity in your congregation or consider how your congregation exemplifies/met/embodies an item from the “progress checklist.” Prepare a document or multimedia object (e.g. report, how to guide, infographic, video) based on your activity/thinking that demonstrates your understanding of the reading and key concepts.

Section 5: Welcoming New People into Your Community

Evaluation

  • Revisit one of your activities from sections 1-3 or select a new activity and prepare a resource that will assist other congregations in understanding key concepts from the reading or in implementing pastoral activities in their communities.

Topics for Debate Forum

  • How we can help a congregation to understand how to open their mind, hearts, and doors to people with all kinds of abilities?

Learning Goal

  • Learn to reach all people in relevant and accessible ways.
  • Be able to prepare concrete guidance for other congregations on how to be more inclusive.

Required Readings

  • Inclusive Design Research Centre. Guide for Accessible Congregations. Toronto: IDRC, 2018. Ppages28-30.
  • Thomas E. Reynolds, “Welcoming without Reserve? A case in Christian Hospitality.” Theology Today, 63: 191-202. 2006 

Evaluation

  • Revisit one of your activities from sections 1-3 or select a new activity and prepare a resource that will assist other congregations in understanding key concepts from the reading or in implementing pastoral activities in their communities.

Note: Your contribution may become an open education resource (OER) licensed under Creative Commons license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/ca/ and shared freely by Our Doors are Open project with attribution to the student author.