Commission on Disabilities
The Virginia United Methodist Commission on Disabilities (COD) affirms the responsibility of the Church to be in ministry with all persons, regardless of their physical and/or mental conditions. The COD functions as a resource group to conference boards and agencies to enable persons with all types of disabilities and challenging conditions to participate to the fullest extent possible as members of the Body of Christ on the local, district, and conference levels.
Virginia United Methodist Men have supported this ministry since 1972.
All monies donated support the following programs of the COD:
- Accessibility Grants — which assist local churches in working their way toward total accessibility in both church facilities and parsonages.
Program Grants — to assist any church and/or church-related organization wanting to develop new ministries with persons with disabilities.
- Camper Scholarships — to help campers who otherwise could not come to Camp Rainbow Connection without full or partial financial assistance.
- Disability Awareness Sunday resources
- Support of Conference Deaf Ministries
- Printing of Materials in Braille for churches, districts, conference events and individuals
- Provision of Resources to the local church, districts, and conference
A large part of the work of the Commission is in the area of education and advocacy.
For more information about the Commission on Disabilities, contact the Serving Office, P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23058-5606; phone: (804) 521-1138
Disabilities-Related Documents and Forms
The Commission on Disabilities is charged with providing advocacy and education on behalf of persons with challenging conditions. In carrying out this mission, the Commission on Disabilities provides support grants for accessibility, and new program ministries. To be considered for grant funds, a church must complete the specific grant application listed below and attach the required items noted in the application. A copy of the Accessibility Audit/Survey must be included with Accessibility Grants. For a copy of the Audit/Survey, click here (pdf).
Accessibility Grants: Grants are given to churches that have identified their architectural barriers and have made plans to remove them. This grant is given to demonstrate that the Commission on Disabilities is supportive of endeavors to allow all people to have full access to the community of saints and the worship of God. The accessibility grants provide supportive funds for ramps, platform lifts, elevators, bathroom renovations, signs and symbols, door modifications, handrails and any other changes needed to EXISTING CHURCH FACILITIES to give access to all persons. All renovations that will remove architectural barriers must be in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act or within the guidelines set by the Health and Welfare Ministries of the General Board of Global Ministries. A visit by members of the Grants Committee of the Commission may be required. Technical support from the Commission is available upon request. Click here to download grant application. (Word form)
Program Grants: These grants are given to expand participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of church life. Churches and/or organizations may submit proposals for new programs and services to assistance with startup costs. These grants can also provide for the purchase of large print or Braille literature, interpreters for the Deaf, assistive listening devices, Christian Education materials and curriculum for children or adults with special needs, and audio/visual recording of worship services. The Commission on Disabilities encourages each church member to report to their respective Board of Trustees and Pastor any barrier that prevents any person from entering the church facilities and fully participating in all church programs and activities. Click here to download grant application. (Word form)
Hearing Device, Ramp, Restroom, and Worship Seating Guidelines
If we say we welcome all to the table – to the Body of Christ – but allow architectural barriers to remain in place, we are not the church we envision. If a physically open door is blocked by attitudes, our hearts and minds are not open. We cannot afford to deny ourselves fellowship with persons with disabilities, nor can we deny them church membership. We must intentionally develop more healthy attitudes and behavioral responses to persons with disabilities. A church that acknowledges it has barriers to full participation of people with disabilities and makes a commitment to begin the process of removing them is truly striving to become accessible.
Most requests for accessibility grants from the Commission on Disabilities are for the construction of ramps, renovation of restrooms, pew cuts, and purchase of personal hearing assistance devices. The guidelines given here provide basic information for your church as you make decisions regarding accessibility to your buildings and ministries.
Worship Seating Guidelines (pdf)
The worship seating guidelines are from pp. 37-39 of the Accessibility Audit for Churches: A United Methodist Resource Book about Accessibility prepared by the General Board of Global Ministries.
Bathroom Specifications (pdf)
Ramp Specifications (pdf)
Autism and the Local Church Materials
The following links are materials provided from a workshop on Autism and the Local Church that was held at the Virginia United Methodist Center on Oct. 23, 2009. They are presented with permission from the presenters.
Disability-Friendly and Accessible Church Badge Project
from the Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church
The Disability Ministries Committee (DMC) of the United Methodist Church is now offering training to annual conference disability committees on what is involved in adopting the program in your conference.
A basic local church training video is available through the Baltimore-Washington conference Commission on Disability’s website.
The committee has added a Copper Pre-badge level for churches that are not accessible but faithfully complete their annual audits and set goals to achieve what they can within their ministries.
Bronze and Silver levels are awarded based on the church accessibility audit score and self-report. See the Audits and Accessibility Badge page for instructions on obtaining these digital badges.
The DMC is reviewing churches for the Gold level if there is no conference committee trained and available. Churches will obtain a certificate and a door cling decal in addition to the digital badge to let the community know they have earned this distinction.
For more information about the Disabilities Ministries Committee visit https://umcdmc.org/