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Photo: National Museum of American History, CC BY-SA 2.0
President George H. W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act inscribed to Justin Dart, Jr., 1990.
Photo by National Museum of American History, CC BY-SA 2.0

Accessible entrances and floor plans, hearing loops, large-print resources, and available alternative formats—these are just a few examples of how churches can be hospitable to and inclusive of the full church, especially people with disabilities.

This is the work of Disability Concerns, an initiative and priority for both the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) and the Reformed Church in America (RCA).

In ministry by, for, and with people with disabilities and their families, RCA and CRCNA Disability Concerns work closely to create accessible, inclusive, and missional churches in which everybody belongs and everybody serves. Regional and congregational disability advocates encourage the full welcome of and participation by people with disabilities, as well as identifying particular needs of the church and connecting people to resources.

Advocacy also means shifting attitudes and social environments to fully include people with disabilities. Removing these barriers—as well as physical ones—helps to dismantle ableism, which favors able-bodied people and discriminates against people with disabilities.

As the United States marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, both denominations celebrate their progress and pledge to renew their efforts toward being accessible and welcoming churches for people with disabilities. Colin Watson, executive director of the CRCNA, and Eddy Alemán, general secretary of the RCA, signed this joint resolution:

Joint Resolution to Follow the ADA and Become Accessible, Welcoming Faith Communities

On July 26, 2020, the United States will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush to ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities. The ADA established a comprehensive mandate to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities, expanding opportunities by removing barriers, changing perceptions, and increasing full participation in community life.

However, the full promise of the ADA will only be reached if we as churches—exempt from some sections of the law—remain committed to fully implement the spirit of the ADA. In creating accessible, welcoming environments for people with disabilities and removing barriers of architecture, communication, and attitude, God’s justice reigns, and God’s love prevails. Our churches truly become communities of faith where everybody belongs and everybody serves.

Denominationally, the Christian Reformed Church in North America has supported a Disability Concerns ministry since the early 1980s, and in 1993, its synod encouraged full ADA compliance by U.S. and Canadian churches. Similarly, in 2008, the Reformed Church in America’s general synod established an “RCA ministry to, with, and for persons with disabilities and their families” in partnership with CRC Disability Concerns.

On the 30th anniversary of the ADA, the RCA and CRC will celebrate the progress that has been made by reaffirming the principles of equality and belonging for all.

THEREFORE, we do hereby resolve that the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America renew our efforts toward full ADA compliance and toward becoming churches where everybody belongs and everybody serves.

If it has not done so already, your congregation is urged to demonstrate its resolve to become a community of faith where everybody belongs and everybody serves by

  1. appointing a church disability advocate,
  2. adopting a church disability policy,
  3. conducting an accessibility audit, and
  4. identifying several leaders to represent your church in the CRC-RCA Disability Concerns Leadership Training, hosted virtually on August 5–6.

Eddy Alemán
General Secretary, RCA

Colin Watson
Executive Director, CRCNA