By Georgia Lance, UUFF Member since 1995
One of the distinctions UUFF is proud of is being a welcoming congregation. We had discussions, attended trainings and had speakers on the issue of being an inclusive congregation for LGBTQ+ people. Some of us would like to add the distinction of being a welcoming congregation for folks with disabilities. Several of us have recently formed a working group to attempt this very task. We are hoping to raise awareness, educate and help fellow members find simple ways they can help in making people with disabilities feel welcome in our fellowship.
I’d like to give a shout out to Gene Vinzant for listening to our concerns about aisles being left clutter fear and wide enough for those of us in either walkers or wheelchairs. I’ve seen great improvement in this area these last couple of months.
How to deal with service dogs is an issue I witnessed during our annual Pride Service. We had two women, one in a large electric wheelchair, with good sized service dogs, trying to cram themselves into a narrow space. It would have been a simple matter to have removed two chairs from the row behind them and give them enough space for their service animals. I suspect if anyone had offered to do that for them, they would have been very grateful.
Another disability issue we have in our congregation is both children’s and adult religious education is located downstairs, which is inaccessible to those of us in walkers or wheelchairs.
The sidewalk located on the lower level requires walking down and back up a steep incline, which is not possible for many of us. In a nutshell, the lower level of our building is off limits for some members of our fellowship. I have seen mothers carrying their children up and down the steep staircase because the children are unable to walk the stairs.
This past Sunday, three of us did a physical audit of our building and grounds, using materials from UUA, to see what is working in our building and what isn’t. We are hoping to help people understand that access for people with disabilities is a social justice issue along with the others our denomination has championed over the years. We are also hoping others will join us in exploring ways we can become a welcoming congregation for people with disabilities.