Reaching out

Accommodations made for some can benefit the many

Tom Racunas is the lead consultant for the archdiocesan special-needs ministry. He can be reached by email at:

by Tom Racunas

Curb cuts. I bet you don’t think about them much, but I bet you use them at least once a week.

You know what I mean by curb cuts, right? A curb cut is a solid (usually concrete) ramp graded down from the top surface of a sidewalk to the surface of an adjoining street.

Curb cuts are found at grocery stores, malls, libraries, courthouses, schools — curb cuts are everywhere. Curb cuts are universal. Curb cuts were originally designed to make public streets accessible to wheelchair users.

But who uses them now? All of us do! We use curb cuts if we are pushing a grocery cart or a baby stroller; if we are riding a bike, skateboarding, roller skating; if we are running or if we just don’t have the energy or capacity to lift our foot up a few inches and then follow by lifting our body weight, .

Curb cuts make life more convenient. For some of us, curb cuts make getting to and from more accessible. The original purpose of the design (accessibility for wheelchair users) ended up benefiting all of us. So curb cuts have a “universal design.”

All of our churches in the archdiocese are physically accessible —either through curb cuts or other modifications. Parishioners, including those with special needs, can get into our churches.

But are our parishes spiritually accessible to all? Once inside the church, is participation in the liturgy fully accessible? Can everyone hear the words of sacred Scripture, the homily and the Liturgy of the Eucharist?

Can everyone see the words in the missalette and hymnal or the song numbers on the hymn board? Can families who have a child with a more severe disability worship together? Can an 18-year-old with autism receive the sacrament of confirmation? Can someone with severe celiac reaction receive the holy Eucharist?

Are faith formation classes — including RCIA, SOR and special presentations (guests speakers, missions, retreats) — accessible to those who want to participate?

These are the questions that Archbishop Naumann is asking us to address in the third goal of the mutually shared vision.

When you begin your work to make faith formation, sacramental preparation and participation in the liturgy more accessible for people with special needs, try to apply the concept of universal design.

It may result in a “curb cut effect.” The accommodations and modifications made for some can have a positive impact on many more.

Some parishioners will take advantage of the accommodation and become more engaged. The mystical body of Christ will continue to grow towards its radiant fullness!

Need help creating curb cuts in your parish? Contact the archdiocesan office of special-needs ministry at (913) 647.3054 or send an email to:

About the author

Tom Racunas

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