CONVERSATIONS and dialogue between those with disabilities and those without are what create inclusion, the deputy director of Livability, Corin Pilling, has said.
The charity says that 99 per cent of churches have a disabled person in the congregation. One in six people in the UK has a disability, and the chances of having one rises with age.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Pilling said: “The best thing to do is to recognise that this will be a process and a journey that you’re on. Not just in getting better at inclusion, but in terms of your relationship with people who may experience some level of exclusion. . . A series of conversations with people in your church who are disabled would be an excellent place to start.
“What we often find, when we’re talking to churches, is that they’ll often say to us ‘We don’t have any disabled people in our church.’ So, we get them to think about invisible disabilities, as well as visible.
“My colleague David Primrose has an excellent question: ‘As you look at your church, who’s not there?’ If this is going to be a healthy community, we probably want it to be representative more broadly of who we are in terms of everybody in our locality. Often, it’s a question of how you start speaking to people who might be disabled in your church about what might make their visit easier.”
Disabled people were not the problem, he said: it was the attitude that people had towards them. “Sometimes, people say ‘We can’t make this church accessible.’ We say that there isn’t a perfect accessible building that’s ready for everybody, but the thing that is really important is the attitude that you display, which needs to be one that is willing to engage, willing to listen, ready to hear the frustrations. . .
“It’s so important that we get away from this idea that disabled people are the problem, but, instead, the context we create, the way we relate, the buildings themselves create those barriers, those problems. A change in perception is really required.”
Livability has produced a report, More Than Welcome, a guide to help churches to be more inclusive.