Revd Alice Kemp is the Diocesan Disability Adviser
07709 767 642
My role is to help the diocese to be a place where all disabled people can be full and valued members of our church communities.
Our vision for an inclusive church
The Diocese of Bristol aims to create communities of wholeness with Christ at the centre. For this to happen our church communities need to be places where all are truly welcome irrespective of ability or disability. To do this as a diocese we seek to provide support for church communities in thinking creatively about what it means to be truly inclusive of all of God’s people, raising awareness on disability issues and creating accessible buildings, services and events.
The disability advisor aims to support individuals, churches, diocesan and other agencies in enabling the full participation of disabled people within the life of the diocese.
Revd Alice Kemp writes; “I and both my children are disabled and so I have personal experience of both being disabled and being a carer. In my twenties I was a specialist housing manager developing special needs housing provision across London. After I became a parent I retrained as a teacher and quickly moved into special needs teaching where I specialised in autism and communication disorders. I am passionate that our churches should become fully accessible and inclusive of all, and places where each person is treasured for who they are.
“For many years our society defined disability through a model which said that we need to fix people who are different, they need to fit in to what we do, they need looking after. All of these disempowered disabled people and made them into second class citizens. Over the years there has been a gradual shift away from this medically based model to one which is more socially based which says ‘how can we change society so that we can allow disabled people to be full and active participants?’
“This isn’t just about accessible buildings, it’s about a change in the way we live our lives, a change in the way in which we run our churches.
“My son Francis has severe and complex physical and learning difficulties. At his confirmation a couple of years ago when Bishop Lee laid his hands on him Francis started to laugh – not his usual laugh but a gentle melodic giggle. I found out afterwards that many in the church at that time were deeply moved and were crying, one woman said that it was her first experience of the Holy Spirit. When I talk to others at my son’s special school I hear the same stories over and over again of the profound effect some of the young people there have had on the lives of those around them.”
Key goals for the Diocese
• An inclusion audit that churches can use to assess their buildings and events
• guidance on how to make churches more accessible for different disabled groups
• a resources list for both churches and disabled people
• guidance on disability positive employment practices
• regular training events for both church leaders and church members to help people to reflect on what it means as a church to be fully inclusive
• stories that show examples of good practice