Thursday, October 3, 2019

UMC's Disability-Friendly and Accessible Badge Program

Wesley UMC in Georgetown, Delaware, and Moran UMC in Spokane, Washington, are the first two churches to receive the denominational Disability-Friendly and Accessible Gold badge.  Ebenezer and Bethany Mission UMC in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, along with Hillcrest UMC in Fredericksburg, Virginia, are the first to claim a Silver badge.  The badges are given in recognition of each congregation’s work on creating an inclusive space where people with and without disabilities can worship and serve together.  Badge awards are based on a congregation’s scores on the revised Annual Accessibility Audit for United Methodist Churches.  Does your church qualify for a badge?
Peninsula-Delaware Conference Bishop Peggy Johnson and Rev. Becky Collison of Wesley UMC
Peninsula-Delaware Conference Bishop Peggy Johnson awarding Gold badge to Rev. Becky Collison of Wesley UMC

The Disability-Friendly and Accessible Church badge initiative was launched in April by the DisAbility Ministries committee of the UMC. We hope that many annual conferences adopt the program and find it useful. For instance, results provide an objective way of selecting host churches for district and conference events.  Local churches will find the tool helps them prioritize the next steps as they work to become barrier-free.

Some audit items are based on meeting the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but others reflect best practices in hospitality for members, guests, and community groups using the building.  Many items are not costly, e.g. observing an annual Disability Awareness Sunday, listing accessibility measures on the church website, and having companions or “buddies” available for children or adults who need a little extra support to navigate worship or church school.  More low-cost suggestions are found in the new handout “Ideas for Becoming Intentionally Disability-Friendly on a Tight Budget.
Moran UMC's parking lot with three accessible spaces and walkway.
Moran UMC's parking lot illustrates fully accessible parking

Congregations apply for Bronze and Silver badges based on self-report of their Annual Accessibility Audit scores.  Gold badge items include having a barrier-free chancel and automatic door opener.  Bonus gold points are earned based on measures taken to meet specific needs of the congregation and community.  Gold status is conferred after a review by someone designated by your conference disability committee or the DMC.  Churches that meet badge criteria and commit to ongoing accessibility improvements can upload the badge for use on their website and other media.  Door decals are coming soon!

Per The Book of Discipline (Paragraph 2533.6), church trustees shall conduct an annual of their buildings, grounds, and facilities, drawing on others in the congregation to assist them.  The annual trustees Charge Conference report asks whether the audit has been carried out.  The General Council on Finance and Administration has adopted the DMC audit and posted this new version on their website under Local Church Forms.  The brand-new, fully-fillable PDF version that can be used on tablets is also on the GCFA and DMC sites.  Updating your audit in future years will be quick and painless!  For more information check the Accessibility Audit page on the DMC website or write to the committee e-mail address.

Submitted by Deaconess Lynn Swedberg, OTR/L, Disability Consultant, on behalf of the DisAbility Ministries Committee of the UMC. 

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