Welcoming disabled people

The Church of England is committed to diversity as one of its major goals. The Archbishops’ Council which sets the strategic goals for the Church of England includes disability as one of the key areas in which it wants to increase the welcome and participation of disabled people.
Clergy in wheelchair, administering communion to blind woman with guide dog

Archbishop Justin Welby hosted a major conference in July exploring how disabled people can participate fully in the life of the Church. Read more about the event on the Archbishop's website and watch three films that were shown at the conference. 

Archbishop of Canterbury sat with three other people, two in wheelchairs

Many disabled people cite the attitudes, environment and barriers to participation as being the most disabling factors in their lives. Yes, they may live with an impairment but it can be the society they live in, or the organisation they work for, that disables them. A person with a mobility impairment may be liberated by having a wheelchair but completely disabled by lack of access to a meeting by the stairs that are its only access.

The Church of England wants to be an enabling rather than a disabling church. Increasingly, it is asking the question, how can we enable disabled people to be at the heart of our communities, explore their vocation and realise their gifts? We have to admit that in the past the Church has often made mistakes in this area and overlooked the calling and gifts of disabled people, but we are determined to do better in the future.

Accessibility is not just about buildings, of course. It is also about the attitudes of the church congregation, how people in the community see the church’s message and the priority given to disabled people. It can be about physical access too and for this reason the Disability Task Group, has designed a new audit tool for local churches to use. 

Read a Place to Belong Guide:

Download A Place to Belong Guide

Download A Place to Belong Audit

This document is based largely on resource guides written by Wendy Bryant for the Diocese of Bath and Wells (“Open to All - a Commitment to a Church where all can belong”, 2015) and the Diocese of Oxford ("Welcome, Inclusion, Respect - a Commitment to a Church open to all”, 2011). Wendy is a member of the Church of England’s Disability Task Group.

The main group in the Church of England which focuses on disability is the Committee for the Ministry of and among Deaf and Disabled People (CMDDP). It is composed of people from all kinds of backgrounds, some disabled and some not, who discuss the issues that face us today. It has two subgroups, The Disability Task Group (DTG) which is facilitated by the National Disability Advisor, Roy McCloughry and the Deaf Ministry Task Group (DMTG) which is facilitated by the National Deaf Advisor, Gill Behenna. Use the form below to contact Roy or Gill. 

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Archbishop Justin speaks to the BBC about disability

Listen to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his daughters speak to the BBC Ouch podcast about disability and mental health or read the transcript