In Part 1 of “10 Steps to Make Your Congregation More Inclusive” I began to outline some of the steps that a congregation can take when they desire to become more inclusive but are not sure where to begin. Here are the next steps in moving a congregation toward inclusion of people with disabilities.
4. Set Goals
Bring together the key stakeholders identified in Step 1. Review the vision for inclusion created in Step 3. Here is the opportunity to dream. Do not engage in discussions of what may or may not be possible at this stage, as you will limit yourself. Brainstorm all that you would hope to accomplish. How about a fully accessible sanctuary? Maybe an amplification system for the hearing impaired or Braille siddurim for the visually impaired? Could you consider live streaming services for those unable to travel? Now think about your school. Is it fully accessible with inclusive programs and opportunities for students to learn at their own pace? Are all children able to experience the joy of becoming bar/bat mitzvah? Think about the community at large. Do members of your community attend programs or join committees? If not, consider a survey to uncover and understand the barriers that currently exist in your community.
5. Prioritize Goals
This is the point where you must discuss what is realistic and possible in the short-term and what must be tabled for a later point in time. This is most frequently the place where congregations get stuck. Ideally, you will choose 3-5 goals to act upon, but if you must choose only one to enable movement forward, do that. It is critical that you leave this stage with at least one actionable goal.
6. Get Help
If one of your stakeholders is not a professional in the disability world, this is the time to explore bringing in a consultant. Here is the place to find additional individuals with disabilities to share their perspective. The goals you have set will determine if you should seek an architect, an educator, a lawyer, etc.
Dream big, work hard and don’t allow yourselves to get frustrated by differences in opinion. Keeping your eye on the vision will help you to set realistic and practical goals to keep your work moving forward.
Lisa Friedman is the Education Co-Director at Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, New Jersey where she oversees an extensive Special Needs program within the Religious School designed to help students successfully learn Hebrew, learn about their Jewish heritage and feel connected to their Jewish community. She also consults with congregations to develop inclusive practices for staff, clergy, and families through dialogue, interactive workshops and awareness training. Lisa is a blogger on the issue of disabilities and inclusion. Follow her on Twitter to learn more.