Disability Ministry

In July 2022 General Synod unanimously carried the motion: “Affirming and including Disabled People in the Whole Life of the Church”.

In brief that motion affirmed “disabled people to be fearfully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God” and made the following unequivocal commitment:

“…mindful of the progress already made in removing some of the barriers facing disabled people, both clergy and lay, commit to working towards the removal of all remaining barriers to full participation for disabled people in the life and ministry of the church.”

As stated in the motion: “Disabled people are by far the largest marginalised group of people across the full breadth of the CofE.”

Disability is not an issue concerning the “other”, nor is it about charity - it is about justice, 22% of the UK working-age population are disabled. Given that this figure is based upon a medicalised definition of disability and the fact that all of us are to one extent or another only ever temporarily, if ever, non-dependent, even this surprising statistic is a gross under-estimate. We all either are, or will be, touched by disability during our lifetime.

Much work has been done on our church buildings but much more is needed if we are to fully represent the richness of the whole body of Christ. For whilst access is good and inclusion is good, belonging is so much better - this is about more than ramps, loops and loos.


Your Disability Advisor

Revd Dr Andrew C Dowsett, Diocesan Disability Advisor.

Email: acdowsett@gmail.com


Ways of thinking about disability


  • Equality Act definition - According to the 2010 Equality Act you are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.


As well as this legal definition there are many other models of disability. Among them are the following:


  • Medical Model - Subtext: Disability in an individual is a negative which needs fixing by the individual.

  • Social Model - Subtext: Disability is a difference in the individual, however the disabling systemic barriers need fixing by society.

  • Charity Model - Subtext: Disability is pitiable and to be avoided by those who are strong.

  • Economic Model - Subtext: Disabled people cost society more than they contribute to society.

  • Religious Model - Subtext: Disability is a punishment handed out for a sin committed presently or historically, or a test of piety and faith.


For more information on ‘Disability Landscape and Language’ see Tupling, K. “Being Disabled, Being Human - Challenging Society’s Perception of Disability and Personhood” (Grove Books Ltd.; Cambridge, 2022)



With many thanks to John Beauchamp - Disability Adviser to the Diocese of London for compiling and sharing many of these links


The law


General information


General advocacy and resource groups


Sight loss



  • The British Dyslexia Association – Support for those with dyslexia and useful information to help make all aspects of an organisation more accessible.  Including a useful downloadable resource guide to producing dyslexia friendly publications – https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk


Learning disabilities

  • Mencap – the voice of learning disability – www.mencap.org.uk

  • Count Everyone In – support, training and encouragement for churches to include adults with learning disabilities – www.counteveryonein.org.uk

  • The Additional Needs Alliance – helping churches to include, support, create places of belonging for, and spiritually grow children, young people and young adults with additional needs or disabilities.  Support, training  and information for families and churches to make inclusion a reality. https://additionalneedsalliance.org.uk

  • Urban Saints Invited to belong’ – Training to make your youth and childrens ministry welcoming to young people with additional needs – www.energize.uk.net/articles/additional_needs/resources/invited_belong


Neuro divergent

  • The National Autistic Society – includes guidance for places of worship – www.autism.org.uk



  • Memory Bridge – resources to encourage and equip the creation of meaningful relationships with people with dementia. www.memorybridge.org

  • The Alzheimers Society – united against dementia. www.alzheimers.org.uk

  • Dementia Friendly Church – a UK project run by The Prama Foundation helping churches to know how to become dementia friendly. www.dementiafriendlychurch.org.uk


Mental health


Building and access

  • Inspired North East - Information and advice for local church congregations considering or embarking upon church development projects


Digital accessibility

The national Church of Englands Digital Labs Blogs have some great articles, especially the following links:

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