Many churches provide for disabilities, from ramps to an inclusive culture
How well do churches provide for people with disabilities, whether in facilities or in a culture of inclusion? Some 86% of local churches surveyed in 2016, said they offered at least one type of provision for people with disabilities, from a list of four options.
Nearly seven in ten local churches said they provided major physical facilities such as ramps, toilets and parking. Two in ten reported an active culture of inclusion. These findings emerge from self-reported activities and operations of churches, in the 2016 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 rated their church's provisions and inclusion as adequate and around three in ten as excellent.
When asked to nominate from a list of four options, 86% of local churches said they offered at least one type of provision for people with disabilities.
Some 68% said they provided major physical facilities such as ramps, disabled toilets and reserved parking; while 45% provided minor physical facilities. A few churches, 5%, reported program-related provisions such as adapted Bible studies for those with intellectual impairments, social support or education to the congregation.
Some 20% reported an active culture of inclusion at their church, for example in teaching and practice, adapting curriculum for children, or in catering for special needs.
Church provisions for people with a disability differed by size, denomination and locality of the church as well as the year the church was founded. All types of provision increased with church size; for example, 43% of churches with less than 25 attenders provided major physical facilities, compared with 83% of churches with 120 attenders or more.
A comparison of results from the 2016 NCLS to the previous 2011 NCLS, found that there was little to no difference in the actions of local churches between these five-yearly survey waves.
When asked to rate the adequacy of their church's provisions for people living with disability, around four in ten churchgoers (41%) rated their church's provision and inclusion as adequate and around three in ten (31%) as excellent. This suggests that most church attenders are satisfied with the quality of provisions and inclusiveness provided by their church.
Churchgoers who self-identified as having a disability themselves, were also asked to rate the adequacy of their church's provisions for people living with disability. Just under four in ten churchgoers with disabilities (39%) rated their church's provision and inclusion as adequate and around three in ten (31%) as excellent. This suggests that similar levels of adequacy were expressed by churchgoers with disabilities, as compared with all churchgoers.
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 the articles below, and in the paper 'Disability, inclusion, provision and care in churches'.
A range of infographics are available for download on disability provision, inclusion and care in churches.
Gan, C. Pepper, M. & Powell, R. (2018). Disability Inclusion, Provision and Care among Local Churches in Australia. NCLS Research Occasional Paper 29. Sydney: NCLS Research.
Pepper, M., Powell, R., & Hancock, N. (2017). Commissioned Report No. 2017.04: Disability Inclusion – Church Attender Views and Experiences. Sydney: NCLS Research.
How active are local churches in caring for people with disabilities?