‘We are made in the image of God, and as such all people are of equal importance and significance.’
As a Diocese we have both a legal and a moral responsibility to ensure that everyone has equality of access to our buildings and services. This is a challenge for parishes, who must often tread a difficult line between preserving the history of their buildings and updating them to ensure that they can be used by all.
This page gives parishes looking for advice a place to start, and links to resources for further information. If you feel that anything is missing, please contact the Diocesan Disability Adviser, the Revd Canon Tim Goode (details below), regarding the kind of resources you might want. He is also happy to visit parishes personally to help with access advice.
First steps for parishes
- PCCs need to make sure they are meeting their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 (previously the Disability Discrimination Act 1995).
- Carry out an access audit of your church – you may wish to do this in conjunction with local disabled people and your inspecting architect.
- Identify the areas that need attention in the short term (for example, where auxiliary aids can be used) and in the long term (those involving physical changes to the fabric of the building).
- Discuss these matters with your inspecting architect as soon as possible so that the PCC can begin to consider how and when such work might be carried out, perhaps as part of a regular maintenance programme.
Remember: any work done to the church building, including the installation of induction loops, cannot be carried out until a faculty is granted. Some work – for example, on ramps or toilets – will also be subject to secular controls (planning permission and/or building regulations). See the DAC’s pages for advice on faculties.
- The Diocese of Southwark Disability Inclusion Policy provides practical information, links and resources for clergy and laity on disability and inclusion in the Church.
- This Parish Resource Pack will help parishes to formulate their own policies and procedures on disability and inclusion issues from a legal, social and theological angle.
- This document contains practical advice on ways in which churches might assess their buildings and facilities in order to create a better environment for people with disabilities.
- Widening the Eye of the Needle – Access to Church Buildings for People with Disabilities (2nd Edition), by John Penton. (Church House Publishing, ISBN 9780715175897)
- Easy Access to Historic Buildings (Historic England)
- Disability Access Provisions for Historic Buildings, by Robin Kent