Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Walk On

So after a week of silence, here is my keen, penetrating question about contemporary church life: walker storage.

Like most mainline congregations, we have many elderly members. Actually, we may have more than most because there are three big retirement communities in our town. A number of these folks use walkers and bring them to church. Often, they sit at the end of a pew and "park" their walker in the aisle next to them. This 1) creates an obstacle for people who arrive later and 2)is a hazzard in case of the need to evacuate the sanctuary quickly in an emergency.

What to do? One suggestion was to create a "walker parking area" near the back of the sanctuary and then encourage walker users to sit in the back few pews. But this results in the ghettoization of walker users and also forces folks who likely have vision and hearing problems as well to sit in a place where those problems will be exagerated. Someone suggested putting the parking area at the front of the sanctary, but this forces walker users to walk the length of the sanctuary before they can sit down, ( our sanctuary is long) and also puts them "on display".

Another idea is to have this parking area at the back and then have ushers escort walker users to and from their chosen seats. But this is time consuming for our ushers, some of whom are older themselves and probably not the best folks to be assisting those with walking difficulties. I would expect resistance from the ushers on this. I'd also live in fear of the day one of the ushers would stumble while escorting a frail walker user and the usher and the walker user would both go down and break bones.

Yet another idea is to install some walker hanging racks at intervals down the wall of the side aisle of the sanctuary. This would allow walker users more options of where to sit and insure that their walker would be nearby when the service is over. But someone pointed out that this assumes that walker users are able to fold their walkers and lift them up to the hanging racks on their own, which probably isn't realistic in most cases.

So, we are on the verge of "appointing a committee to study the matter". Have any of you discovered a good solution to this problem?

9 comments:

Susie said...

I'm not sure if this will help or not... but a few years back at my church, they figured out that they needed better spots for folks bound to wheel-chairs. Since we're all pews, some handy-with-tools-people actually shortened some of the pews, and reattached the ends, so that a wheelchair could fit at the end of a pew, but not be in the aisle either. I wonder if something liek that would help?

Presbyterian Gal said...

Susie's idea is good if you can swing it. In the meantime, how about a questionnaire going out in the bulletin asking the walker users what their druthers might be? Questions like: Where do you like to sit? What would make it easier for you with your walker? and your other questions.

I'd bet money that two things would happen: Walker users would feel real happy about being asked and You'll find your solution from one or more of them.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

*snorts* I have no advice at all to give you.

However, I think that this is the best line I have ever read:

*But this results in the ghettoization of walker users *

SpookyRach said...

Yep, I'm with Mindy on the ghetto line. Art!

Purechristianithink said...

Susie--One of the reasons this is a pressing matter is that we DO have pew cuts for wheelchairs. Some of our walker users have taken to using these cut out spots for walker parking. So imagine if you will, a disgruntled wheelchair rider confronting a defensive walker user is the aisle just as the prelude begins . . .

Quotidian Grace said...

Oh, Lordy, PCIT. Now I'm picturing the confrontation between an angry wheelchair-bound church member and an angry walker-bound one. Not pretty!

I like Presbyterian Gal's suggestion which would invite walker users to give their own suggestions. However it's not likely to give you any good ideas.

Is it possible to clear out one row of pews closer to the front of the sanctuary and create a "walker" pew behind it? That way each walker could be parked in front of the person who uses it out of the way of the aisle. Although the group would be "ghettoized" they would at least be seated in the middle of the congregation rather than at the back.

cheesehead said...

I can see it now: Wheels VS Walkers out in the alley. Gives new meaning to Crips and Bloods.

Songbird said...

I feel like this ought not be making me laugh, but somehow it is...
I'd like to someday serve a church accessible enough to draw lots of people with walkers. When we had walker-users at Small Church, the ushers put them in the vestibule and brought them back to the users after worship. But that was maybe two walker-users.

ppb said...

Okay, I'm giggling now, because I'm imagining wealthy churches advertising "valet walker parking," perhaps with little beepers so that walker users can request their walkers back in a timely manner? I'm sorry but this makes me laugh.

In all seriousness, a wheelchair using friend wishes that most of the pews were shortened, so that she could choose from a wider selection, rather than being forced to sit in one of three pews. (This mostly because people always know where to find her and she keeps getting hit up for committees when she'd really like to hide some sundays.)

Now I'm envisioning a wheelchair walker showdown. The wheelchairs have more weight but presumably the walker users have more dexterity...