Disability provisions in churches

Nine in ten churches say they provide for people with disabilities

How well do churches provide for people with disabilities, whether in facilities or in an active culture of inclusion? Some 90% of local churches surveyed in the 2021 NCLS, said they offered at least one type of provision for people with disabilities, from a list of four options.

The top provision listed by churches is major physical facilities, such as ramps, accessible toilets and parking. Some three in four local churches (76%) say they provide such major facilities. Two in ten churches report an active culture of inclusion. These findings emerge from self-reported activities and operations of churches, in the 2021 National Church Life Survey.

We also asked churchgoers how they evaluated the quality of their church's activities and inclusiveness. Around four in ten churchgoers (39%) rate their church's provisions and inclusion as adequate and 26% as excellent.


Nine in ten churches say they offer provisions for people with disabilities

When asked to nominate from a list of four options, 90% of local churches say they offer at least one type of provision for people with disabilities. 

Some 76% say they provide major physical facilities such as ramps, accessible toilets and reserved parking (up from 68% in 2016); while 47% provide minor physical facilities, such as hearing loops, wheelchair spaces convenient for services, and large print written materials (similar to 2016).

A few churches, only 3%, report program-related provisions such as adapted Bible studies for those with intellectual impairments, social support or education to the congregation.

Church provisions for people with a disability differ by size, denomination and locality of the church as well as the year the church was founded. All types of provision increase with church size; for example, 61% of churches with less than 20 usual attenders prior to the COVID pandemic, provide major physical facilities, compared with 85% of churches with 250 attenders or more.

A comparison of results from the 2021 NCLS to the previous 2016 NCLS found that there was some increase in the actions of local churches between these five-yearly survey waves.


How adequate are the provisions?

When asked to rate the adequacy of their church's provisions for people living with disability, around a quarter of churchgoers (26%) rate their church's provision and inclusion as excellent (down from 31% in 2016), and around four in ten churchgoers (39%) as adequate (similar to the 2016 figure of 41%).

This suggests that most church attenders are satisfied with the quality of provisions and inclusiveness provided by their church.

It was found that the proportion of attenders who positively rate their church’s provision for people with a disability (either as excellent or adequate) has decreased overall between 2016 (72%) and 2021 (65%).


Churchgoers who self-identified as either having a disability themselves, having a close family member or friend with a disability, or experience with disability through work or other connections, were asked to rate the adequacy of their church's provisions for people living with disability.

Attenders who either had a disability themselves, or had connections with others with a disability, are less likely to rate their church’s provisions as being excellent or adequate (59%), compared to attenders who did not have any connection with people with a disability (69%).  Interestingly, they are more likely to indicate that they are unsure of the adequacy of the provisions available.


Beyond provisions for people with disabilities, our research also explored how welcome people with disabilities might feel at church; how often churches provided social services or activities for people with disabilities; along with churchgoers' personal experience of disability.

These research results on the inclusion of people with disabilities in churches have been published in 'Disability inclusion, provision and care: trends in local churches from 2016 to 2021.'


Data Sources:



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