Resolution 4: Task Force on Disability and Deaf Access

Resolved, That the Presiding Bishop’s vision of the Jesus Movement calls upon us to welcome all of God’s children as evangelists and reconcilers; and in accordance with this vision, the 170th Convention of the Diocese of California reaffirms Resolutions D097 (Establish an Advisory Council on Disability and Deaf Access) and D090 (Engaging the Church in Advocacy for Disability Rights) from the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, along with Resolution D043 (Ensure Accessibility for Disabled Persons at All Church Events) from the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church;

Resolved, That this Convention hereby forms a Task Force on Disability and Deaf Access which is charged with creating a best practices guide for voluntary disability and Deaf access for all Diocesan institutions and congregations, including but not limited to physical accessibility, communication access, large-print or “Braille” resources, and safe retreat space; and further charged with conducting a review of policies and procedures for events and gatherings of Diocesan institutions and congregations to make suggestions for improved accessibility where desired;

Resolved, That this Task force shall consist of no fewer than 8 and no more than 10 members, with preference given to those having personal and/or professional experience with the disability and Deaf communities, with half to be appointed by the Bishop (including the Task Force Chair) and half by the Chair of Executive Council, and shall include at least one attorney or other legal professional knowledgeable in disability law; and

Resolved, That the Task Force on Disability and Deaf Access will report to the 171st Convention of the Diocese of California.

Explanation: This resolution builds upon the mentioned resolutions of the 78th and 79th General Conventions  (See Resolutions 2018-D097, 2018-D090, and 2015-D043). As members of Christ’s body often Called to do the work of our Church at various levels within, disabled and Deaf members of the have faced barriers—many unintentional--to actively living out their Calls or to other involvement with our institutions and congregations. So often, there should be no barriers when it comes to doing the work of our Church and the work of God and Christ Jesus, especially when all of us are called to radical welcome and recognizing the dignity of every human being affirmed by our Baptismal Covenant.

Our diocese, and many of its deaneries and congregations, have taken some steps to providing access to the disabled and Deaf.[1] Yet, there is much more that can be done to provide access to all who are Called and to all who seek inclusion, community, and belonging as children of God.

Being mindful that, for the most part, religious institutions and places of worship are not required to comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and on many occasions are also not required to comply with similar State legislation and the disability provisions of building codes, this resolution will create a Task Force to look closely at ways in which DioCal institutions and congregations can reasonably, affordably, and efficiently become more accessible to people with disabilities and the Deaf if they wish to do so and to the extent they wish to do so. It is recognized that not all congregations have the human resources or the funding to be fully compliant even if they so desired, yet there may be low-cost or no-cost steps they can take towards greater accessibility. The Task Force will also be a resource to all within the Diocese of California for disability and Deaf accessibility and may consult with the Task Force on Disability and Deaf Accessibility created by the 79th General Convention in doing its work.

The resulting best practices guide should include information for diocesan institutions and congregations on various ways to make themselves more accessible. These measures may, at the Task Force’s discretion, include:

  • Making sermons during service, or audio recordings of sermons posted online afterward, accessible for people with varying degrees of hearing loss;
  • Making websites accessible for people with vision impairments and who are blind and use screen-reader software to access the internet;
  • Training greeters and ushers to welcome people with disabilities and who are Deaf, and what terminology is best to use;
  • Taking necessary steps to make structures physically accessible, such as contacting Certified Access Specialists (CASps) and knowledgeable contractors;
  • Finding technology and apps of varying or no cost that can be used for accessibility;
  • Determining the existing accessible (or most-accessible) paths of travel for events; and
  • Finding qualified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, providers of Communication Access Real-time Translation (speech source captioning system) (CART), or other such vendors of accommodations for events and activities.

This best practices guide should draw from many available resources, such as independent living centers across the Bay Area and the Pacific ADA Center in Oakland.

The membership for this Task Force is set for between eight (8) and ten (10) people so as to allow each deanery, Executive Council, Standing Committee, and DioHouse to be represented, if so desired by the appointers of the Task Force.

In sum, this resolution would create a significant resource for diocesan institutions and congregations who wish to be as accessible as possible for people with disabilities and who are Deaf. Let us live out our Baptismal Covenant by recognizing the dignity of every human being and being able to welcome all children of God in our churches, organizations, and ministries as best we can.

Submitted By: Karma M. Quick-Panwala, Delegate, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, and Convener, Grace Cathedral Diocesan Delegation, karmamyatt@hotmail.com (Preferred), 415-971-0156 (text only, please)

Endorsed By: Ms. Sarah Lawton, Delegate, St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco; the Rev. Ellen Clark-King, Executive Pastor and Canon for Social Justice, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco


[1] The title of the Task Force, as well as the text of the resolution and explanation, specifically states “disabled and Deaf” because people with hearing loss identify in many ways: Those identifying as “Deaf,” with an upper-case “D,” belong to the Deaf Community, and promote Deaf history and Deaf Culture. They view Deafness as a cultural difference from those whose primary language is oral or written in nature. People who identify as “deaf” (lower-case “d”) or “hard of hearing” generally identify as “disabled.” It should not be assumed that someone who is “deaf” also identifies as “Deaf,” or vice-versa.

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