Our staff and a few parish commissions are thick in the discussion of accessibility, mainly at our weekend Masses. Though we are getting good marks on the issues of welcoming and accommodation, we have some items to tweak.
Some of the positives include a flexibility on where folks in wheelchairs and walkers can sit. It is important to give people the choice, and not to force them into a segregated area. We are easily able to accommodate people who want to sit in front, near the front, or in the back. When you think about it, having a particular area isn’t really very welcoming or respectful.
One piece I’ve noticed as I see our automatic doors in use–we’ve been criticized for them. The synchronization of inner and outer door isn’t necessarily a good thing. As they are set now, door one opens first, and door two is on a delay. As it opens, the first door will begin to close. One parishioner reports concern that the first door may begin to close before she can proceed all the way through the second. While it may save a bit on lost heat or conditioned air, it is a challenge to us to consider a simultaneous opening. And one lasting a sufficient time to get a carefully-moving person through.
How do you handle accessibility issues at your parish? Churches aren’t required to be ADA-compliant, but very many choose to do so. I wonder how more traditional churches handle the challenges of wheelchairs, especially the larger mechanical ones.