As welcoming communities of faith, we should strive to eliminate all barriers that may limit the full participation of individuals. These barriers may be visible or invisible and are not restricted to the physical environment.
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind offers a broad spectrum of online resources to assist in accommodating individuals with vision impairment.
Recent provincial legislation across the country has resulted in identifying some of the less obvious barriers. However, it also has implications for our ministries in insuring they are meeting the requirements as they come into effect.
A summary of current and upcoming provincial legislation:
- Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act: passed into law April 2005
- The Accessibility for Manitobans Act: passed into law November 2015; customer service standards to be met by November 1, 2018
- Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act: passed into law April 2017
- Accessibility 2024: British Columbia’s 10-year action plan, released June 2014
The objective in each case is to remove barriers that currently prevent full access to services many of us take for granted.
For the church, action will be required. Based on the experience in Ontario, the following steps will be required:
- Establish policies, practices, and procedures.
- Establish a training program, and train staff and volunteers.
- Establish a feedback process.
Accessibility Standards (Ontario)
Built Environment: Accessibility has typically, in the past, focused on the physical church structure—washrooms, ramps, elevators. This continues to be a component of the AODA and with that, concern regarding the financial costs, availability of physical space, and practical considerations have arisen. As of January 1, 2015, the 2012 Building Code came into effect, including the new accessibility requirements. These amendments apply to new builds or major renovations as defined under the building code (related to size of the area being affected). Before proceeding with any work, the congregation or ministry should consult with the local municipal offices for detailed information about the building code as it applies to their specific property and project.
Customer Service Standards (Ontario): For resources on customer service standards (Ontario), see the Hamilton and Toronto Conference resources under Downloads, below. Conferences in Ontario are welcome to adapt these resources; Conferences outside Ontario may find them a useful reference as we strive to be a welcoming church to everyone.
Check out AccessON for stories, videos, and tips on how to provide services to individuals with disabilities. A number of tools are available to help you meet the compliance requirements, including online training.
For more information, contact