Churches are increasingly being used by wider sections of the community. About a fifth of the population have access needs, including people with hearing and visual impairments, wheelchair users, older and less mobile people, young families with pushchairs. This is too large a community for churches to overlook!
As community spaces, and as 24/7 symbols of a community’s faith, they should, and must, be accessible to all.
Disabled access is now covered within the Equality Act 2010. The Act seeks to achieve equal opportunities in the work place and wider society, including in churches, church halls and churchyards.
This means that churches have to take reasonable steps to change practice, policy, or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to make use of its services. With specific regard to buildings, the use of premises by a disabled person must be anticipated and not left until the situation arises. This includes considering access to the church, parts of the interior, use of WCs, noticeboards, churchyards and paths.
With historic buildings this has to be balanced against aesthetic and conservation principles. If your building is listed, you will have to observe certain standards that have been set for correct provision. These are set out in British Standard 8300:2009 and Part M of the Building Regulations.
Charity Insurance Blog: what does the law say to churches about equality and diversity?
Advice and support
There is a great deal of advice and support for churches regarding accessibility, including advice about improving access.
National Churches Trust: resource centre (accessibility)
Through the Roof: homepage
Church of England: accessibility
Inspired Northeast: the open door
Baptists Together: churches and disability issues