Ecclesiastical buildings can take many forms and are often located in heritage, listed or existing buildings. Whilst the Equality Act (EA) does not override other legislation, such as, The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Regulations, there is still a duty to meet the act. The way in which a service or employment is provided within an historic location needs to be reviewed to ensure that discrimination is not inherent due to physical or managerial barriers. Just because a building is listed does not necessarily mean that this is a get out of jail free card. In some churches the congregation are older thus highlighting the need to consider access.
It must be remembered that it is the service that needs to be accessible, not necessarily the building; a review of activities and formal proceedings should be undertaken. There are a range of options, such as alterations; additionally, management policies, provision of auxiliary aids and maintenance operations, can assist. Often a small change or cost, such as, the installation of a sound enhancement system, can benefit many. Other aspects to consider are access to graveyards, burial grounds and cemeteries.
Occasionally, temporary arrangements may need to be made, at this point effective communication is crucial. Weddings and particularly funerals, where unexpected disabled people may attend, one must ensure that people understand how to request suitable access or to discuss access arrangements.
We can assist you to interpret your obligations and assess these against reasonable measures, given the limitations of your premises and economic constraints.