From Mother Megan:
When I was in college, I had a dear friend who had cerebral palsy, and used a motorized wheelchair. She wanted to attend church with the rest of us college students in the colonial buildings that made up Williamsburg, but—of course—colonial buildings, lovely as they are, were not built with an eye towards accessibility. Ramps, when they existed, were hard to find. One was so steep she had to get a running start out in the road to get all the way up. Elevators were old, and not functional much of the time. More than once, the assembly of Episcopal college students got Claire into church through a relay system of hoisting her up the stairs bodily and carrying her into the chapel.
It was not ideal.
For Claire, what she wanted was simple: she wanted to go to church. The community also wanted her to come to church. But frequently, what I learned was that there were obstacles in the way that the church didn’t realize until someone pointed them out.
Here at St. John’s, we try very hard to be welcoming. We want to make sure that all people know that here, we are happy to see them, and thankful that God has sent them to us. What can be harder to notice, however, are the subtle ways that our building makes it difficult for people to feel welcome.
To that end, the vestry and I have been talking to some accessibility folks about making our building easier to navigate—making sure people who don’t do stairs can get in easily and then up to the Chancel. There are some simple changes we can make to enable all people to navigate our space.
Ultimately, addressing these things isn’t about laws or liability—it’s about making sure all people, all children of God, regardless of mobility level, have access to this place.