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Hallo again to all.

In our day job we do a considerable amount of work building websites, often with many forms and dynamic content. As a consequence, we find ourselves thinking about accessibility for people with physical or mental issues that might render accessing content difficult. Once a website departs from being what is its essential core—text with markup describing what it ought to look like and outlining its structure—it becomes perilously easy to exclude those without vision or with limited vision, motor control issues, or numerous other disorders. Even simply omitting alternative text for an image renders it potentially opaque. If you have an operating system with a screen reader built-in or if you can acquire one by download, use it to visit your favorite website and hear its failings to communicate. You may be surprised at how many there are (and at how opaque are screen reader shortcuts).

Stained glass window of Jesus healing the paralyzed main lowered though the roof (Andreas F. Bourchart, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE), Very few websites are perfect in this area (we are not), but we often find church-related websites among the worst offenders in this matter. On some level, we are not surprised. A parish website is frequently an earnest expression by a group of people to share how the Gospel is lived in their community, not a professional site. There will be mistakes. But when we think about the physical plants of many parishes in our home country and abroad, they too are often profoundly unwelcoming to the handicapped and disabled. Old stone stairs and no wheelchair ramp. An altar with steps such that someone in a wheelchair could not readily preside over the eucharist. Difficult terrain for the elderly and motor-impaired to navigate.

Sometimes this is an outgrowth of laws exempting religious organizations from more stringent rules regarding public accommodation; sometimes it is just the nature of an older physical plant. The same glorious architecture that makes our church buildings places of solace and reflection can also make them exclusionary to those with differing conditions.

These thoughts recall Jesus healing physical maladies and welcoming the newly-healed back into a society that had brutally excluded them. The metaphorical healing of souls blighted by sin clearly parallels these literal healings, but we think too that Christians must become better about remembering that the very sorts of people Jesus healed of physical maladies are equally beloved by God and should be welcomed whether they are healed or not.

Our efforts in this will never be perfect and indeed may never be enough, but we can certainly do better. Whether that means making sure a parish's website provides alternative text for its images or that its building has a ramp or accessible toilets, we hope that as the Anglican Communion moves into a new century, we all become more mindful of including those whose abilities differ from our own.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

14 July 2019

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