Religious practice

19.1 Religion plays an important part in the lives of many Irish people, including people with disabilities. At present, however, barriers of attitude, communication and architecture prevent many of those people from participating fully in the worship, services and social activities of their respective congregations.

19.2 For those with a mobility problem - and this includes many older people - getting in to the place of worship of their choice may not be physically possible. Even when they do get in, they may not be able to negotiate narrow doorways, heavy doors or stairs or find print too small to read and not available on tape or in Braille. Sound systems may be inadequate, with no sign language interpretation for those who need it. Toilets, where they are available, may not be usable by wheelchair users.

19.3 For many, the biggest barrier may be the attitudes of others. Feelings of being ignored, isolated or rejected may be reinforced by not being included in activities in which other members of the congregation take part, by the language used by religious leaders, or in printed materials, by a general lack of awareness of the needs of people with disability in the community.

19.4 People with disabilities should be made to feel welcome and should be fully involved in every aspect of congregational life. To this end, the Commission recommends:

  • That every religious community should set up a small task force or working group, which should include people with disabilities, to look at anything which could be a barrier to the inclusion of all in worship and to develop an action plan to eliminate those barriers;
  • That disability awareness should be included in the formation of religious leaders at every level.