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Church Stage Access for All

From sermons, choirs, and baptisms to concerts, leadership summits, and community events, the church stage plays a key role in both getting God's Word out and in pulling the congregation and community together.

While churches may not always be bound by the "letter of the law" to provide stage access for all, more churches are obeying the "spirit of the law" by providing full stage access to their employees, congregation, and community with portable wheelchair lifts.

Portable wheelchair lifts have unique advantages over traditional options such as permanent access ramps, temporary ramps, and permanent lifts. 

While permanent access ramps can provide full stage access for new construction or renovation projects, most churches cannot afford the structural changes and facility downtime that such a ramp project can require. Temporary ramps can be heavy, unsightly, and take several hours to set up and take down with each use.

Portable wheelchair lifts, on the other hand, raise and lower vertically like a permanent lift but can be moved as needed to multiple locations and even used with portable stages.

Beyond the Letter of the Law
Although churches are not required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide stage access to the public, they are required to take their current and future employees' needs into consideration if access to a stage is part of their jobs. State and local laws may also require access for those with disabilities, particularly if church facilities are used for daycare, recreation, or other public multi-use purposes.

But when it comes to creating a welcoming, inclusive environment for all, many of those in the religious community are going beyond what's minimally required by law and realizing the benefits.

"One of our choir members had been singing on stage with us for years when she lost the use of her legs and had to use a wheelchair," said Keith Sain, facility manager at Christ United Methodist Church, a multi-site church based in North Carolina. "Getting on stage to sing with the rest of the choir was huge in her heart. Several pastors in our conference also had mobility challenges and would need stage access."

To provide stage access to those with disabilities, Sain and the senior leadership at Christ United Methodist Church sought a portable wheelchair lift that would satisfy their need for space-efficient aesthetics, portability, safety, value, and long-term reliability.

For this they turned to Ascension, a Tucson, Arizona-based manufacturer of portable and permanent wheelchair lifts.  Such a portable wheelchair lift can require only 5 feet of linear space in use, replacing up to 65 feet of linear ramp (for a 60 inch stage).

"With our portable wheelchair lift, one person can easily get on and off the stage by themselves," said Sain. "For us, it has satisfied ADA, state, and county disability access requirements in a compact space that helps us get the best use out of our facilities."

Since the stage is the center of attention at worship services or community events, the aesthetics of the portable wheelchair lifts should also be a concern. Many portable lifts use a machine tower to house the drive mechanism. Since such towers typically exceed 72 inches in height, they can block a clear view of the stage. Some portable lifts have solved this aesthetic design challenge by eliminating the machine tower.

"Unlike another portable wheelchair lift we tried, this has no obstructive machine tower so our congregation has a clear view of the stage," said Sain. "Since it blends in with its surroundings, it keeps the attention on those sharing the gospel on stage."

Ease of portability is essential because the portable wheelchair lift must easily be moved in and out of storage when used. This is even more important when the portable lift is used at multiple locations, such as when churches share the portable lift between sites.  Because of the range of stage venues the lift could be used in, quick adjustment to a variety of stage heights is also vital.

For more information, visit www.wheelchairlift.com.

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Religious Product News