WADSLEY PARISH CHURCH
Disability Inclusion Policy
1 Mission statement
We are made in the image of God, and as such all people are of equal importance and significance. In God there is no distinction between male and female, young or old, black or white. We may extend this to say that in God there is no distinction between those who identify themselves as disabled and those who do not. We all, irrespective of our status, have privileges and responsibilities in the practice and outworking of our faith. Just as there is a “bias to the poor” so there is a Biblical imperative to have a corporate responsibility to those on the margins of society and within the structures of our church.
This policy enshrines the principle that all people employed by, volunteering for, or accessing services offered by, the Diocese of Wadsley Church are treated equally.
We are required in law to respond to the subject of disability and this has a bearing on Wadsley Parish as service providers and, at times and in some instances, employers. Current legislation requires that the we take reasonable steps to ensure that its policies, practices and procedures enable disabled people (lay and ordained) to enjoy and fully participate in all aspects of diocesan life and work.
A very significant number of people who are involved in the life and work of the parish are volunteers, and we believe that it is good practice to extend to volunteers the requirement to take reasonable steps to ensure that all policies, practices and procedures enable disabled people (lay and ordained) to enjoy and fully participate in all aspects of diocesan life and work.
This policy is intended to apply to all aspects of church life in the parish, and to all levels of church life: from parish or benefice to deanery and diocese.
3 Definition of disability
The definition of the word “disability” which applies in this policy is that contained in the Equality Act 2010:
“a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities”.
This definition includes mobility impairment, visual or hearing impairment, learning disability or difficulties, autism, mental health problems, dementia, and the many “hidden” disabilities: for example, but not limited to, epilepsy, arthritis, diabetes, circulatory conditions, asthma, fibromyalgia, or dyspraxia.
“Substantial” means more than trivial or mild. “Long-term” means lasting 12 months or more, with the notable exceptions of cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS) and HIV infection, which are considered to be disabilities from the moment of diagnosis.
It is not necessary to categorise a person’s disability, nor to attempt to ascertain its cause.
It is important to remember that any one disability or impairment will affect different people in different ways and to varying extents; a person with a disability remains an individual with a whole identity, of which their disability may be one part.
4 Relevant legislation
The relevant legislation which governs disability inclusion is principally the Equality Act 2010.
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against people with a number of “protected characteristics”, of which disability is one. Protection from discrimination for disabled people applies to disabled people in a range of circumstances, covering the provision of goods, facilities and services; the exercise of public functions; premises; work; education, and associations. Churches, as organisations and service providers, are required to make “reasonable adjustments” to premises, facilities, and the way a service is provided, in order to remove barriers that disabled people may face.
The Act also provides protection for non-disabled people who are subjected to direct discrimination or harassment because of their association with a disabled person or because they are wrongly perceived to be disabled.
5 Principles of disability inclusion
In order to ensure that the policies, practices and procedures of the diocese, deaneries, benefices and parishes enable disabled people (lay and ordained) to enjoy and participate fully in all aspects of diocesan life and work, the following principles should be observed:
5.1 Disabled people should be consulted, along with others, in any plans or proposals to develop or make changes to church buildings, patterns or styles of worship, patterns or styles of meetings, or any other activities of parish, deanery, benefice or diocese.
5.2 The role which disabled people may play in the life of the church should be considered at all levels of involvement, including leadership, lay and ordained.
5.3 The law requires churches, as service providers, to make “reasonable adjustments” in order to ensure that both buildings and “services” (that is, activities, events, not just worship services) are accessible for people with disabilities. In deciding what is reasonable, a number of elements may be taken into account – such as resources, size of congregation, funding available, and the amount that the adjustment would cost. Careful consideration needs to be given to what would be reasonable, on a case-by-case basis; however, the principle is that adjustments should be made wherever and whenever possible. If an adjustment is considered or suggested, but not deemed to be reasonable, for whatever reason, that decision, and the reasons for it, must be recorded in the appropriate meeting notes, e.g. the minutes of a PCC meeting.
5.4 The law requires organisations and service providers to be anticipatory in anticipating the needs of potential visitors or members. In addition to considering the needs of disabled people who already attend services, meetings or other activities, the diocese, deaneries, benefices and parishes should think ahead and anticipate the access needs of potential visitors, members or participants. This applies in particular to events which are open to the general public, as opposed to e.g. meetings of elected members only, where it is known who will be attending.
5.5 People with disabilities should be able to access buildings and activities independently, where this is appropriate to their age. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair, without assistance, to travel around, should not be lifted up steps to enter a building. It may be acceptable on occasions to offer assistance to a disabled person in a new environment, but it should not be assumed that this will be accepted or needed.
5.6 Churches which are listed buildings, or of particular historical or artistic importance, are not exempt from the Equality Act or the principles of disability inclusion. However, it is recognised that it can be especially challenging, or expensive, for such churches to provide good access for people with disabilities, especially for those with mobility difficulties, or those with visual impairment. In such cases the term “reasonable” is particularly relevant, and churches are expected to do all that is reasonable to remove or reduce barriers which prevent the involvement of people with disabilities in church life.
6 Strategies to achieve this policy: Church
In order to achieve the aims of this policy, there is a requirement for us to carry out a disability access audit on a regular basis; to report to their PCC the findings of this audit, and to implement the recommendations of the audit as specified and as resources become available.
In the event of resources not being immediately available to implement some or all of the recommendations of an access audit, this should be recorded, and an action plan drawn up to show the proposed schedule of implementation.
A disability access audit should review all aspects of parish life: church buildings, worship, meetings, social and educational events. The audit should take into account, and relate to, the current Mission Action Plan (or equivalent) of the parish.
7 Strategies to achieve this policy: meetings and events
All meetings and events organised or facilitated by the church must give due consideration to the requirements of people with disabilities. Advance publicity, bookings, choice of venue, and use of venue for workshops etc. should take into account the needs of people with disabilities: including, but not limited to, mobility or other physical impairment; sensory impairment; learning disabilities, autism, and other hidden disabilities. Events which are primarily for learning or training purposes should take into account different learning styles of participants, including disabilities such as dyslexia.
9 Strategies to achieve this policy: recruitment and employment of staff
Good practice and legal requirements in all aspects of recruitment and employment of staff, including volunteers who may be deemed to be voluntary workers, must be followed. This will include preparation of job descriptions and policies; facilities relating to interviews and assessments; working conditions including additional or alternative equipment, and working practices.
This policy will be reviewed every three years by the PCC
Date this policy agreed: 22nd June 2016
Date for review: June 2019
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