Ramps are becoming more common in our churches, either as fixed or permanent features, or temporary ramps that are laid out 'when the need arises'. Ramps are not only there for wheelchair users, but also for people who find steps difficult, this may include the less mobile due to some form of disability, or sometimes people who are finding that with age it is not so easy to cope with steps. Of course ramps can also be very useful for other people such as those with pushchairs, or even for those people who are making deliveries. All in all ramps can be beneficial as access to our church buildings and other buildings such as church halls.
From much experience as a wheelchair user I can say that there is nothing less welcoming than a church that does not have access for a person who relies on a wheelchair. I must also comment that being ‘sent around the side’ of the building to another door is degrading!
Every church wants to make new people, and visitors, welcome; well that is the Christian theme of love for after all. So being faced with a step, if you cannot do steps, is not a good start. It is also most embarrassing when a person has to wait for the ramp to be put out for them. I am always appreciative when this is done for me, especially to the poor person that has to struggle with the contraption, but I am embarrassed none the less. I have also had to wait to get out of churches when the ramp has been taken up after I am in, because clearly I am the only wheelchair user to be using that church that day.
Now there are health and safety issues:
1. Person putting ramp out, noting I am in a wheel chair due to a manual handling injury.
2. Ramp user driving off edge, particularly if it is a ‘home made ramp.
3. Will the ramp take the wait of the chair and user? Many electric wheelchair’s, and scooters are very heavy because of the batteries they carry.
4. Storage, where to keep the ramp when not in use; and No! Not in the disabled access toilet!!
Permanent ramps have to be the only solution. But these take planning and finance. If the church is used for weekly external activities, there may be funding streams that can be applied for. Otherwise it has to be regarded as a legitimate expense that the church must cost in as part of its mission and ministry. Legal permission will be needed, and advice sort, so do not just do it, especially if your church building is listed!
This is just a brief start on a huge subject, I hope it gets you thinking.
Cite this article as: Fr. Jeffrey A.Leach.CBV, "Church Ramps" in Disabling Barriers to Church Blog, 02 September 2016, http://disablingbarrierstochurch.blogspot.co.uk/