A rising tide lifts all the boats:

Inclusive ministries and universal design

Many churches and places of worship are improving the accessibility of their premises. But have they thought of more than just getting in the door? What about faith leaders with disability?

What is good for people living with disabilities is good for all of us, and a rising tide lifts all the boats.

Bill Gaventa
A rising tide lifts all the boats

Traditionally, men have taken all the leadership roles, and in some faiths they still do. But in other faith groups women are gradually being accepted into these roles. Progressive faith-based institutions might also consider gender diverse leaders. So it’s time to push the envelope for broader inclusion and that means embracing leaders with disability.

An article by Bill Gaventa discusses universal design in different forms as a way to be more inclusive. A major role for any faith leader is to pass on knowledge about the faith to followers. That means teaching and learning methods need to go beyond the written word and preaching techniques.

Gaventa writes that ministries are coming of age and that it is time to advocate for inclusion in faith communities.

Four panes of a church stained glass window depict different people needing help.

The primary premise of Universal Design is that those environments, including places like religious education classes and worship services, should be designed, from the beginning, to include a wide variety of people with varied learning styles and needs.

The title of the article is A rising tide lifts all the boats: It is about All of Us. It is nicely written in a conversational style and is wide-ranging. Gaventa also discusses assistive technology, understanding disruptive behaviour and universal design for learning. “A rising tide lifts all boats” is a fitting analogy here as well as for economics.

Whatever way a congregation might get to the point of Universal Design, it puts new meaning on our celebration of the “church universal.”