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Making Your Place Of Worship (Church) And Your Ministries Accessible, A How-To Guide

Making Your Place Of Worship (Church) And Your Ministries Accessible, A How-To Guide

This is a guide on how to implement accessibility for your place of worship and your ministries.

Important: Please Note

This guide features some HTML code. This code is a reference to how things should be labeled. The code is only used as an example.

About This Guide

This guide goes over on how to make your church and your ministries accessible for all. This includes the website, your place of worship, and your ministries that you may have.

Introduction

Churches are a great place! You can worship, pray to the lord, etc. One thing that is missing from most places of worship is accessibility.

What Is Accessibility?

Accessibility is defined as the quality of being able to be reached or entered.

(Source: Google)

Why Does Accessibility Matter?

Most places of worship have a website, in which people who are in their congregation(s) can visit to look up information on events, download bulletins, watch their services live online, etc. One thing, for sure, that some of them don’t think about, is accessibility of their website(s). Most of them have a physical building, but some of them do not think about implementing accessibility. This could cause issues in the long run from disabled members, such as them leaving their old congregation to search for some place else to worship.

While I understand that most people who serve on a church/ministry team, some of them are not that tech savvy to even make their website accessible. I also understand that money is tight right now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is where this guide comes in.

Today, I am going to teach you how to make your place of worship and ministry website/building accessible. This guide is not meant to scare you. However, this will help you spread the good news about God, Jesus, etc. If you want to ensure that everyone with a disability feels loved when they step into your place of worship, this guide is for you.

The Legality

I am not a lawyer or anything like that. I am just giving you general information regarding the legality that you might have to follow if your place of worship is under a certain category.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

There is a law in the United States, called the Americans With Disabilities Act (also known as ADA). Churches, however, are exempt from this law. However, if you have a childcare system at your church that is opened to the public, for example, you may be required to follow this law. This law prohibits discriminating people with disabilities.

Improving Your Website(s)

Let’s start with your website.

Labeling Links (The Right Way)

All links should be labeled clearly, not some of them, or even worse, none of them. For example, a link should be labeled like this: “Click Here To Access The Bulletin.” Having a clear description of links helps screen-reader users understand what is behind a link, when pressed. If you are coding, please include the link text after the title attribute, for example:
<a href=”https://example.com” title=”Click here to download/view the bulletin”>Click here to download/view the bulletin</a>

Buttons Should Be Labeled Correctly As Well!

Same thing goes for buttons. You do not want to label a button that the sighted community only wants to see, but screen-readers can’t. If your website builder gives you an option to label buttons, please give a clear label for the button, for example, “Click this button to download the bulletin.” Don’t use “Click here” or even worse, “Here.”

Headings Should Be Structured Correctly

Headings should be properly structured correctly. Here is an example, found below.

Example

Welcome To Elevator Church!

What Is Elevator Church?

Why Join Us?

Nice And Welcoming People

And so on. If this confuses you, just let me know by contacting me.

Be Sure To Use Descriptions In Images (Alt (Alternative) Text)

Make sure that images have good descriptions. This comes in a form of “alt text,” or alternative text, in which a screen-reader only sees. For example, if there is a picture of a Pastor sitting in a chair smiling, the alt text should say, “A Pastor is smiling, while she is sitting in a chair reading a Bible.”

Make Sure That Documents Are Rendered Correctly

This goes for your bulletins. I encourage you to offer different versions of your document(s), including PDF, Word Format (.DOCX), or even a HTML (standalone web) version. You may refer to the growing resources at the bottom of this guide for your reference.

Media (audio And Videos)

This section goes over the best practices for media, including audio and videos.

Include Audio Descriptions/Subtitles

Make sure that you add audio description/subtitles to your videos that you may upload. This may include videos that you may upload to Facebook, YouTube, etc. Without audio description, people who are blind will not know what is going on. Without subtitles, people who are hard of hearing will not know what the person is speaking about.

Use Sign Language (also known as ASL)

Be sure to incorporate sign language in your media, if possible.

Audio Controls For Media More Than Three Seconds Long

Be sure to include audio controls for audio/videos more than three seconds. This will ensure that people who watch the videos, who might’ve watched part of the video, can skip forward or backwards.

Flashes e.g., Animated Images

Avoid any flashing lights, or any animated images/videos that flash a lot, as people with motion issues can suffer from a medical emergency if they are exposed to a lot of flashing.

Don’t Use Colors To Relay Information

Be sure to avoid any colors that is used to relay information.

Don’t Use Hovering

Please, in any way, do not implement a hover or focus technique to access information. This could make it hard for screen-reader users, since most users rely on keyboard navigation.

Don’t Include Pages That Time Out

Be sure to not include pages that time out. If for some reason that you want to include those pages, be sure to have an option for people with disabilities to turn the feature off.

Have Someone With A Disability Test Your Website Before Publishing

This could save some time in the long run. If you publish the website right away, and you start getting complaints, then it might take a while to possibly rebuild the website to accommodate people with disabilities. Call or FaceTime your church member(s) so they can show you how they use their technology to access your church(s) website. Even better, you can enable disabled member(s) to use Zoom to share their screen with you.

Even Better, Hire Someone With Disabilities To Build Your Website!

If a person with a disability knows coding, then you should hire them to help you get your website up and running. They will be sure to guide you in the process of making your site accessible for all. They will be happy and felt appreciated for letting them make your website with you.

Physically Improving Your Place Of Worship

This part of the guide now explains how you can physically improve your place of worship to meet the demands of people with disabilities.

Handicapped Buttons

If possible, install handicapped buttons. This is for wheelchair users. Also, if you carry something heavy, you can open the door easier.

Wheelchair Ramps

This is obvious. If you have stairs, your best bet is to implement wheelchair ramps outside of your church doors.

Large-Print/Brailled Bulletins

Be sure to include large-print bulletins for low-vision member(s). Also, be sure to have a hard (brailled) copy of the bulletin as well, so blind people can follow along, obviously.

Same Thing Goes For Bibles

I encourage you to have large-print/brailled copies of the Bible in stock, just in case a blind person doesn’t have smartphone access. See one of the resources at the bottom of this guide.

Elevators

If you have multiple floors, be sure to include elevators. These elevators should be easy to operate. All buttons should be labeled with large-print/braille, etc.

Accessible Signage

Examples of accessible signage may include, but not limited to braille signs to bathrooms, office spaces, etc. Avoid using small print for signage. Use large print/braille instead.

Include People With Disabilities In The Decision Making Process

Everyone is different somehow, but God gave us a gift to advocate. If you have a Board Meeting or a Town Hall Meeting every month or quarterly, invite the people with disabilities to speak. If they give you feedback that needs improvement, be sure that it gets improved, or else the member(s) in question, might sadly leave. Your goal is to grow, not leave member(s) with different abilities behind.

In Conclusion

This guide is a great start to making your church and your ministries accessible. If you have any questions, please let me know by filling out the feedback form at the bottom of this website or by directly emailing me. Be sure to share this article far and wide.

Resources (will open in new tab)

Microsoft Word – Making Your Church Accessible and Removing Barriers-2021.docx

How to Make Your Church Website ADA Compliant

Creating Nonvisually Accessible Documents | National Federation Of the Blind

Alternative Text | Webaim

Hyperlinks | Webaim

Blind | Special Touch Ministries

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