Access Sunday and Disabilities Awareness Week
Many years ago, ordained United Church of Christ disability rights activist Harold Wilke (1915-2003) wrote, “The festivals of the religious year show forth new meanings for access and liberation: In the glory of Easter–the stone rolled away–we see the barrier removed. In the wonder of Pentecost, the message is heard, understood, and seen by all. In the liberating act of Passover, the message is: “Let My People Go!” and the parting of the Red Sea. In the joy of Advent, God embodies divinity in human form.”
Yet, for many persons today…the barriers still remain; the stone is still in place; the waters are not parted, the way not opened; the words cannot be heard; the flame of the Spirit’s tongues cannot be seen; the message not understood.
Proclaimng the message in all languages for today means using Braille or larger print for people with visual disabilities, signing or special sound systems for persons with hearing disabilities; image, color and drama for people with cognitive disabilities; architectural access for people with physical disabilities or who are getting older.
Let the stone be rolled away! Let the glorious message be proclaimed truly, in all languages so all may hear and understand!”
Wilke’s stirring words begin the guidebook entitled, “Anybody, Everybody, Christ’s body: A Guide for Congregations, Associations and Conferences in Becoming Accessible To All (A2A)”. This guide is invaluable to those congregations that fear that becoming truly physically accessible in their church buildings is fiscally out of reach. After all, the idea of putting in a new elevator or enhanced sound system might seem daunting.
The A2A guidebook is a reminder that just as important as physical and fiscal shifts, are changes in habits and attitudes. While these may take time and spiritual effort, the effect on the church budget may be less than is feared. The process of becoming accessible to all (A2A) begins with an audit of your space, which you can find, along with the A2A guidebook at the website for the United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministry (uccdm.org).