Church Websites That Reach Families with Disabilities
In today’s digital age, your church’s website provides a front-door view into the heart of the congregation. Twenty years ago, families impacted by disability would have driven by your church looking for signs of accessibility. Today, people visit your church’s website long before they visit the church in person. A thoughtfully constructed church website can be a powerful communicator of welcoming to individuals and families living with disability.
As you plan how to utilize your website in this way, here are some steps we recommend taking:
Step 1: Write your text first. This is the most daunting part of describing your disability ministry or the kind of accommodations you offer. Choose language that puts people first, such as “Rob has autism,” instead of “Rob is autistic” or “Claire uses a wheelchair,” instead of “Claire is handicapped.” Highlight your ministry strengths and allow less-reliable accommodations to develop before putting them on the website. Make sure you are confident in the essential details: who to contact, the name of your ministry, and the age groups you are serving. Writing the text first will help you determine the amount of info that you need to communicate.
Step 2: Decide where to place the text. Should you put the text in various places across your website? On a single disability-specific page? Both? If you don’t have a formal disability ministry, you may need to disperse your text into the age-related categories across the website. For example, you could list your children’s ministry accommodations on the children’s ministry page. If your ministry offers many accommodations, consider putting information on one well-organized page. If you have the freedom to create a page and have the accommodations listed with their respective age groups, we recommend you do both with a link back to your main disability ministry page.
Step 3: Consider the graphics. Pictures tell your disability ministry’s story much more effectively than your text ever will. Try to make sure that the pictures you choose represent the diverse gifts, backgrounds, and abilities that are present in your church.
Step 4: Plan for social media. Once you have written the text for the website, you will have content that you can use in other places. Social media are great venues for congregational education. Consider highlighting one aspect of your disability ministry at a time. Or consider a “Did You Know?” series where you share accommodations you offer but that may not be well-known to the congregation. Create a master calendar of all the posts you will do. If possible, write them all at once and schedule them to post on certain days.
Step 5: Consider other avenues. Sunday bulletins, handouts, and church-wide emails are great ways to also spread the word. Think of all the ways that your congregation connects and learns about upcoming events. Utilize those avenues by reusing website text and highlight various aspects of your disability ministry. It will encourage families touched by disability—and make them feel more enfolded—to see communication that includes their needs.
Here are important details and accommodations to consider as you plan the text for your website:
|General Description of Your Disability Ministry||Ages you serve
Types of Disabilities you serve
Scope of your ministry: worship, discipleship, and outreach for every age group
|Contact Person||Who to contact:
-if interested in visiting the church
-once you arrive at church
-to update prayer needs
-regarding physical needs
-if you want to volunteer
|Volunteer Needs||List the specific volunteer jobs with descriptions
Embed a form so people can sign up immediately
Consider a short video that tells how easy it is to volunteer
|Accessibility||Where to park
Where to enter the church (port cache, accessible entrance, etc)
Note if wheelchairs are available
Flexible seating in the sanctuary
|Hearing Impairment||Hearing loop or amplification device
Printed copies of sermons
American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation
|Vision Impairment||Large-print bulletins, Bibles, Bible study books
Advanced distribution of materials
Consider visual accessibility of the website
|Food Allergies or Special Diets||Gluten-free options for communion
Peanut-free snacks for children
Allergy considerations for fellowship meals
|Welcome and Greeting||Consider adding to your homepage, About page, and Worship page that you are willing to enfold people with disabilities regardless of need.
Provide a link to your disability ministry page, if applicable.
|Children and Youth||Consider adding text to the webpages for children and youth that indicates welcome to the children and youth who have disabilities.
Consider specifically referring to learning disabilities, dyslexia, autism, etc. if you are trying to reach more families impacted by those disabilities.
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