Seventh in a Series of Articles

Feb 26, 2020

This is the seventh in a series of articles to update and inform the congregation of the renovation project for St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church.

One of the words that has become common language in the architectural, construction and church worlds is “accessibility.”  One of the most challenging parts of renovating an old church is to incorporate all the required provisions of the ADA (American Disabilities Act).  Clearly this was not an issue when the church was built.  While some attempts were made in the past decades to minimize the barriers for people with disabilities, our current church is severely lacking in that regard.

Older places of worship can be especially challenging for anyone with physical disabilities.  In the renovation of old buildings special provisions must be made to harmonize the requirements for accessibility while holding up the architectural integrity of the building along with the norms for proper celebrations of liturgy.  Adaptations to existing building can be expensive, but failure to make the community’s place of worship accessible for all will exact a far costlier human and ecclesial toll.  The goal is always to make the entire church building accessible to all of God’s people.[1]   Par 214

We currently have many accessibility barriers in our place of worship such as:

  • minimal parking dedicated for handicapped accessibility; the “drop off” near the ramped entrance is small and dangerous, allowing only one car at a time; the ramp itself is not up to code requirements
  • bathrooms are small and inaccessible for people in wheel chairs
  • we have only one automatic door
  • a good portion of our seating (balcony) is completely inaccessible
  • there are no dedicated areas in the nave for wheelchairs and companions
  • the sanctuary is stepped with no ramped provisions
  • our sound system provides minimal assistance for people with hearing disabilities.

Great care has been taken to eliminate as many of these barriers as possible:

Parking – we want to provide as much parking as close as possible to the church so that all members of our parish and visitors will be able to park and get to a near entrance with ease.  This includes safe, on-road parking, parking lots that are well lit and without significant barriers and parking that is dedicated and reserved for people with disabilities.  Additional parking will be created west of the church while parking on the north side of Cook Street will be eliminated.

Restrooms – All restrooms will provide ease of accessibility for people that are wheel chair dependent as well as people who use walkers, crutches or canes.  Additional Family restrooms will provide privacy for parents with children or for people who need assistance from caretakers.  Changing tables will be in all restrooms.

Barrier free entrances – All main entrances will be barrier free and equipped with automatic doors.  The main entrance will have an elevator to provide barrier free access to the main level Gathering Space/Church, as well as to the lower level/dining room.  All entrances will also be on surface level or have ramps that meet code requirements.  As there will be no outside steps, we won’t have to be concerned about clearing them of ice and snow. 

Accessibility to the sanctuary – Welcoming people with disabilities to be ministers for liturgy is a priority.  This includes priests and other presiders, readers, psalm cantors, etc.  A ramp into the sanctuary will allow access for people with wheel chairs or for those who find steps difficult.

Audio – an acoustical engineer will assist those who are designing the sound system to provide the best possible system for those who are hearing impaired.

These and other safety considerations, such as fire protection (the church will now have a sprinkler system), security and lighting will be up to date and make our church and church grounds a safe and welcoming place for all.

[1] Built of Living Stones – Art, Architecture, and Worship (NCCB), par. 214.

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