Should a church provide wheelchairs for the congregation and visitors. In general, the answer would be no. Because most people who need wheelchairs have them. There are problems that come along with equipment, see below. However, sometimes the circumstances dictate otherwise, such as emergency evacuation.
So, if the church has decided through its risk assessments and access audit that wheelchairs are needed the advice is that the items are purchased 'New'. It is, to be sure, more costly than donations of such equipment, however the chairs fall under the Provisions and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. A failure of the equipment during use could render the church open to a claim, also criminal action by the Local Authority Enforcement Team (though less likely than a claim).
As for evacuation; the church needs a written plan which would include Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for each person known; these would identify who should do what in an emergency. Yes, some wheelchair users do just pop-up when they are not expected. Well let’s celebrate the new face, and not get panic stricken, good access audits, and open PEEP’s, will get around this. Open PEEP’s are those written with a fictitious person in mind – the what if questions. The answers to these are vital in the planning for emergency evacuation, and training of wardens and sides persons.
Cite this article as: Fr. Jeffrey A.Leach.CBV, "Provision of Wheelchairs by Churches" in Disabling Barriers to Church Blog, 29 June 2017, http://disablingbarrierstochurch.blogspot.co.uk/