Designing Registration to Support Inclusion of People with Disabilities

Welcome back to religious education and worship after the summer holidays means that it’s time to think about registration forms, welcome pads, usher information and other updates to how we take attendance and register people for events in our faith communities. As you take a look at these forms and procedures, think about universal design and supports. Consider the following:

Photo of Pews in a sanctuary by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

In the Pews

Whether you use an online registration form, or a paper and pencil form in the pews, be sure that your visitor information includes a section for supports. You can highlight supports that you have available (like a hearing loop or large print materials) while you collect information about supports. To get you started you might want to ask questions about:

-Transportation

-Hearing

-Vision

-Mobility

-Behavioral

  • Memory
  • Routines
  • Sensory Supports (fidgets, weighted blanket, quiet room, etc…)

-Pastoral Care

You can treat this as a way to gather information about the most relevant support needs in your congregation and as a way to connect people to the supports that you offer.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Registering for Events/Classes

Do you want to make it easy for everyone to join- in your fall studies and small groups? Be sure to collect information about supports. Right on the online registration form you can offer certain accommodations and include a space for things that you haven’t thought of. In addition to choosing books and other materials that include an option for audio books, podcast and video, consider asking about the following:

-Large Print or audio study guide

-Accessible meeting room

-Hybrid learning environment

Be sure that your leaders are also thinking about supports for all learners- remember 26% of the population has a disability- so at least ¼ of your adult students need supports- and remind your leaders that this number goes up as people age. They can plan to include everyone in class if they are thinking about strengths of their learners and supports in class.

-Consider providing an outline or guided notes to all students- especially if you giving a lecture.

-Provide a copy of the study guide for everyone- people love to think about what you will be discussing before class.

-Build wait time into your class discussions. People love the chance to gather their thoughts before they respond.

-Facilitate classes so that everyone has the space to respond- not just a few people who love to share.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Children and Youth Registration

For children’s programming, you may have the biggest opportunity to collect information. For these forms, consider universal design when asking about disability and supports- this may make it easier for parents to give you information that is really useful to leaders and volunteers.

In addition to asking about allergies, supports, and health information, consider asking questions about supports that apply to every child in your program. To support behavior challenges, consider questions like: “When your child becomes upset, what helps them calm down?” “Are there any environmental triggers that upset your child (like loud noises, smells or textures)?” “What passions and strengths does your child have that might help our teachers guide their lesson planning (like sports, hobbies, pets, etc…)?” For a sample form, be sure to check out https://faithinclusion.com/2022/01/05/inclusive-forms/.

Published in the September 2021 UCICC Newsletter.

Published by Deborah Huggins, MDiv, PhD

I'm blessed to serve as associate pastor of youth and children at Central Presbyterian church in Summit New Jersey where I get to support families as we find connection to God and our community. My doctorate is in Special education, with a focus in faith inclusion.

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