Historic churches can pose numerous challenges to those with disabilities. The Norwich Diocesan Advisory Committee is careful to consider accessibility in the applications it discusses and prefers for there to be a shared place of entry for everyone rather than separate access. PCCs are encouraged to think about the potential for making their churches truly welcoming to all. Sometimes a compromise is necessary to avoid unreasonable intervention and to enable enjoyment of the place for all people. One such compromise might be placing accessible toilet facilities outside rather than in the church due to spatial restrictions. It is important to strike a balance between accessibility and heritage which is beneficial to both.
West Runton, Holy Trinity
Gressenhall, St Mary
Larger churches often have the potential to accommodate a permanent ramp and several have been installed across the diocese including at Wymondham Abbey, Hethersett, St Remigius and Brancaster, St Mary. Many small churches have a portable ramp left in place or stored near the door, and it is always helpful for a clear sign to be placed on the door or in the porch making wheelchair and mobility scooter users aware of the arrangements. To download a copy of the sign for printing please click here.
The hearing/ induction loop system allows those with hearing aids and the ‘T’ position to hear the service clearly without interruption. Such systems do not incur any VAT. List B (Archdeacon’s) permission is required.
It is very important that provision is made for disabled users when plans are being drawn up to install toilets in a church or churchyard.
Bear in mind the experience of walking stick, wheelchair and mobility scooter users approaching the church. Paths should be maintained and resurfaced with a robust coating, such as resin, if necessary. In some cases it is possible to install a new accessible path route, as at Denton, St Mary which enables easy direct access from the car park to the church.
Handrails can be installed by the chancel step to assist with access to and from the altar, and next to churchyard steps.
For further information regarding accessibility and permissions please contact:
- Nicholas Cannon on 01603 88235 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Eliza Greenwell on 01603 882351 / email@example.com
The guidance document ‘Equal Access to Church Buildings’ produced by the Church Buildings Council is available here.