DMC lobo with outreached arms of standing and seated figures forming vertical arm of a cross between them.  Committee name and the words Making Rough Places Smooth - Removing Barriers Is. 40:4 are part of banner.

A partner ministry of The General Commission on Religion and Race
Fall 2022    
Volume 12, No. 5
A safer ramp in PA is now a welcome mat!
A man wearing a ball cap and beard and using a power wheelchair demonstrates the widened, safer ramp.
of the
United Methodist
 Disability Connection

Greetings in Christ! 

Did you know that the Disability Ministries Committee (DMC) receives no general church apportionment support? While we are grateful for in-kind support from our host agency and small gifts from several other UM boards, this is not enough to sustain us and fund our ministries.

In this issue we share some of the work we have done in 2022, and let you know how you can help support our ministries.

Grants: We believe so strongly in promoting church accessibility that we use nearly all of the money you donate for accessibility and program grants. In 2022 we awarded 13 churches a total of $11,750. In the past 11 years we have given grants in the amount of $62,380 to 87 churches and organizations!

Resources: Our website, newsletter, and media posts aim to provide you with the practical information you need to become become accessible and inclusive congregations. We will publish the newsletter more frequently in 2023. Our resources are grounded in Wesleyan theology and informed and vetted by pastors and DMC members with disabilities.

Consultation: From queries about use of service animals to requests for training, we are available to support UMC members, churches, agencies, and conferences. Some consultation is provided by our volunteers, but you help support reimbursement of their expenses and stipends for our part-time disability and communications consultants.

As noted below, the easiest way to contribute is through our Advance #3021054

Please prayerfully consider a donation this Giving Tuesday, November 29th, or whenever it is most convenient for you. 

Deaconess Lynn Swedberg, editor
DMC Grant Funding

DMC Web Resources

DMC Consultation

How to Support the DMC

DMC Grant Funding = Helping a UMC Soup Kitchen in Pennsylvania become more welcoming and accessible
Last year people like you faithfully supported the work of the DMC. You cared enough to give, and Sojourner Truth Ministries in Central Pennsylvania was able to make major improvements to the main entry to their community center, widening the ramp and installing a safety railing at the top landing. Pastor Angelique tells how completing the grant application and accessibility audit sparked and broadened what they understood being a welcoming ministry to be. “Some people quit coming because getting into the building was simply too dangerous.” A group, including program participants with disabilities, began evaluating the accessibility issues. The process pointed out many obstacles that needed to be removed. We thought we were welcoming, but our building conveyed the message that we were not.”
Some might think that $1000 isn’t enough to make a difference. This ministry dispels that notion completely. We asked what the improvements meant to the effectiveness of their program. The ramp is a welcome mat! It says every person has value and will be treated with dignity and respect.” 

Sojourner Truth Ministries provides a soup kitchen, dinner church, Bible study, after school program, and much more. It is located in a 100+ year-old Methodist church building purchased after that congregation closed its doors. It is built into a hillside, which limits the accommodations that can be made. The ministry operates on a very tight budget but supporters are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do a lot of the work themselves. Some folks made changes to interior spaces. They removed pews in the former sanctuary and replaced them with round tables and chairs for their Dinner Church. Others painted a second entry door and cleaned up the entryway to make it more welcoming.
A man using a walker stands in front of the new safety gate at the top of the ramp with a blue church door behind him.
When asked to share stories about how lives were changed and the goals of the ministry advanced by this grant, Pastor Angelique told usOne man, who had a stroke several years ago and has difficulty speaking, used hand gestures to explain how he had nearly fallen and of his fear of falling.” Here are the words he DID say the first time he used the ramp: “Wow! Wow! THANKS. Good. Wow, man!”

Another participant shared that he had fallen twice trying to make the sharp turn and was so thankful for a safer ramp. He felt people cared. Another had not come to Dinner Church in a long time. He said there had been times he thought he would fall right over the edge of the stairs. The vision for the ramp was that it would show, in a concrete way, that each person is valued, welcomed, and an important part of the ministry. All this and more has been realized.

Contributed by Rev. Debbie Hills, DMC Chairperson, Western PA Conference

The 2023 DMC Grant Cycle will open February 1st and close March 31st.

If your church or organization has a qualifying project in mind, visit our Grants webpage to learn more and download a 2023 Project Grant Application.

DMC Resources = Introducing United Women in Faith to ways to create safe sensory spaces in their churches
Exhibit staffed by 3 female DMC members with display information on the table and sensory items demonstrated and available for use.
Three of our members represented the DMC at the United Women in Faith Assembly 2022 in Orlando last May. Our hands-on exhibit gave participants the chance to try out calming sensory devices including
  • noise-cancelling earmuffs
  • weighted lap and shoulder pads
  • assorted "fidgets" to manipulate
  • "calm down" bottles to shake and watch as the glitter slowly drifts down
  • visors to reduce the glare of overhead fluorescent lighting
We created a sensory corner in the Experience Hall and offered "Sensory Breaks." We used a rocking chair and suspended translucent fireproof tent to provide a break for overloaded senses. See the instructions below for details and ideas for use in your own congregation.

We asked booth visitors to share their dreams for a fully inclusive church. Hopes included:
+ that children with mental health needs would have their gifts accented.
+ for churches to realize that there is no such thing as "normal".
+ a more accepting environment for the disabilities you can't always see.
+ finding ways for wheelchair users to help with communion and ushering.
+ seeing the world through the eyes of autistic children
+ accommodations for people who cannot see the screen to follow worship.
+ more accommodations for hard of hearing and Deaf people.
+ everyone able to worship together would be a beautiful thing!

We also provided information about the Annual Church Accessibility Audit badge program and began joint projects with several boards and agencies. Stay tuned for what is to come, including Volunteers in Mission disability awareness training and ways to include accessibility information on your Find-A-Church site.
We developed the following handouts for United Women in Faith Assembly 2022. These tools will help congregations create welcoming spaces for children and adults who may get overwhelmed with the noise and sensory overload of typical Sunday morning activities.

DMC Consultation = Achieving Gold Badge Disability-Friendly and Accessible church status in North Carolina
Copper square and bronze, silver, and  gold badge images with disability friendly on top and accessible on the bottom with badge type and DMC logo in the center.
The Badge program is gaining momentum after being stalled due to COVID-19 closures. We have now issued badges in every jurisdiction and have seen one church upgrade its status from Bronze to Silver!

NEW! We have 5" door decals for Gold badge churches to communicate your accessibility to people who visit your building.

We oriented several annual conference disability ministries committees to their role in reaching congregations and issuing badges, and plan to schedule additional two-part trainings in the new year. Please let us know if you are interested in these Zoom sessions!
Behind the communion rail is a ramp to the chancel which is integrated into the architecture. The white rails match white chancel furnishings.
Gold Badge Congregation Focus

Mt. Tabor UMC in the Western North Carolina conference reached out for input about earning a Gold badge a year ago. They took the process seriously and remedied a number of issues as they worked. They had already implemented many measures including building a ramp to the sanctuary chancel area, as pictured. [See Audit item 32-G]
Other examples from the church include:

"At least quarterly, an entry in the newsletter says, 'THE CHURCH FOR ALL PEOPLE MINISTRY would like to encourage everyone to be mindful of others who have fragrance and chemical sensitivities by limiting use of perfumes, colognes, air fresheners, etc. when at the church. What can smell good to most people, could cause a serious problem with others. Thank you for your support.'

In addition, all soap dispensers throughout the church building contain fragrance‐free soap. Some chancel candles are fragrance‐free and some contain liquid paraffin." [See Audit item 39-G]
Three banner panel with two children each with uplifted and joined hands. The center child uses a wheelchair. Various flags are overhead.
One Audit item asks whether your church has images or other indicators that children or adults with disabilities are welcome. A series of Mt. Tabor education wing hall banners include the figure of a child in the friendship circle using a wheelchair, an example of why they could mark this item "Yes." [See Audit item #50-S]

The team met with church leadership to ensure that everyone was on board before scheduling a virtual meeting and tour to complete the badge validation process. They provided photos and background information ahead of time, including their rationale:

"Mount Tabor’s primary purpose for using the Accessibility Audit Form as a self‐assessment tool was to take stock of where Mount Tabor stands relative to the items in the form. We recognized that these items represent best practices for an accessibility‐minded congregation, so how does Mount Tabor measure up? Where are we doing reasonably well, and where are we missing important services or features? This review has helped answer those questions.

Members of the accessibility team shared with us afterwards:

"On behalf of us all here at Mount Tabor, your giving your time to us and sharing your insights with us this afternoon was a gift, Lynn. Thank you. We have learned so much about accessibility and about ourselves at Mount Tabor in going through this review process. We all left the meeting with our mental wheels turning about ways to become more disability friendly. What a terrific learning experience this is for us!"

“Throughout this entire process, our prayer has been that Mount Tabor’s facilities contribute to advancing God’s kingdom here on earth. Our prayer is that we, through our attention to accessibility, practice radical hospitality for members, guests, and community groups who enter the blessed space we call Mount Tabor.”

May more churches undertake an accessibility audit with this goal in mind!
Your Financial Support = The Disability Ministries Committee Continues to Provide Vital Resources
Advance logo with United Methodist cross and flame and the words Advancing hope in Christ's name
The DMC uses The Advance as one way to receive your donations. This is an accountable, designated giving arm of The United Methodist Church that ensures that 100% of each gift is used for its intended mission or ministry. 

There are two easy ways to give:

A. Go online at and click on the yellow “Donate” button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. There you will find a link to Advance project #3021054 and our PayPal account.
Follow the instructions there to give online through the Advance or PayPal. 

B. Send a check to: The General Commission on Religion and Race 
       Attn: Christina Yates/ DMC
       100 Maryland Ave NE, Ste 315
     Washington, DC 20002
Be sure to write “DMC Donation” on the memo line.
As these stories demonstrate, our work impacts lives as more churches include more people with disabilities in all aspects of their ministries. This is only possible because you support our efforts.

Your gifts make it possible for this ministry to continue to grow in effectiveness and outreach throughout the denomination.

Blessings to you as we enter the holy season of Advent!

Disability Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church