I need your help with getting a door unlocked.
I’m a parishioner (and at last check parish council member) at a large and historically-significant parish. Thanks to renovations over the years, there are three wheelchair-accessible entrances feeding the parish church. Unfortunately, since November of 2017 all three of those doors have been locked. The only way to get into the building during Sunday Mass or Saturday Confession is to either walk up a short flight of stairs (seven if I counted correctly) or wait around on the sidewalk hoping to flag someone down who will go unlock an accessible door for you.
Unfortunately, the pastor of the parish doesn’t seem to understand that it isn’t okay for someone with a disability to have to make advanced arrangements in order to be able to get inside the building for Mass or Confessions. He’s otherwise a fairly stand-up guy, but he seems genuinely shocked that I would be angry about this issue.
I’m not above launching a massive public shame-storm, but that’s a weapon of last resort. What I’d like your help with is attempting to show Father (and I tell you again: he is otherwise a pretty sane guy) that equal access matters.
Here is a form where you can share your story. Can you share with him an example (or multiple if you’ve got them — fill out as many entries as you’d like) of how equal access, or lack of it, has affected your life?
My plan is to pass on to him your stories so he can see, person by person, just how painful it is to be the one stuck out on the sidewalk wondering how you’ll get in. I’ll also put in a Mass intention for the collective intentions of those who share their stories (so Father L. gets to pray for you, cause that’s his job), and of course I’ll pray for you individually and I think he will too.
I’m not looking for angry. He’s gotten plenty of angry from me, and believe me, I’m not as nice in regular life as I am on the internet. I’m looking for your personal story of how being able to participate in parish or community life made a positive difference for you or someone you love, or how being excluded by needless barriers did the opposite.
The reality is that barriers keep people out. After a year and a half of locked doors (in a previously accessible parish), the only regulars with disabilities are the few who are okay with the new status quo as second-class citizens. Everyone else has disappeared. If you showed up as a tourist (the parish receives many out-of-town visitors at weekend Masses), you’d follow the signs to a locked door and maybe succeed in waving someone down, or maybe just give up and move on. As a result, Father L. no longer sees the people who are most affected by his decision: You’re all gone.
I need you to make yourself visible to him again.
Thank you so much.
I’ll post updates as I get them. Also: If you choose to let me share your story (and only in that case — opt in or your story remains completely private), I’ll pick a few to post here and elsewhere, so that your voice gets heard far and wide. Thank you!
Image: No Accessibility Icon, courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain