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How to Make Mosques Accessible for People With Disabilities

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 18th April, 2024

Our vision at Amanati is to see a fully inclusive community that provides equal opportunities for all, regardless of abilities. We have hope that our vision will come to fruition. We recognise that different people prefer to be labelled in different ways. In this article, we have used terms that from our own experience, appear to be more commonly preferred. We acknowledge that not everyone may agree. For example, in the UAE the label “people of determination” is used in place of “disabled people”.*

As Muslims, we are ordained to uphold justice. Allah (SWT) tells us in the Quran:

“O believers! Stand firm for justice as witnesses for Allah even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or close relatives” (Surah an-Nisa 4:135). 

This was the way of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the friends of Allah (SWT). This is why fighting for just causes plays such an important role in the lives of Muslims. We see this in the outcry against the genocide of Palestinians. We see this in the emphasis on giving to the poor and needy. We see this in the Islamic principles of giving the people around us their due rights. But have we stopped to think if we are doing justice to a marginalised and often overlooked group in our communities: those with disabilities? Imam Ali (AS) beautifully said: 

“The most just from all creation is he who fulfils rights most indiscriminately” (Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 3014)

Can we honestly say we are fulfilling the rights of disabled people in our communities? 

Statistics reveal that one in five people are disabled in the UK (Census, 2021), therefore this is likely to include a large proportion of the Muslim community. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on a person’s ability to do normal daily activities (Equality Act, 2010). Some disabilities are visible, which means that by looking at the individual, their disability would be apparent. However, other disabilities are non-visible, meaning you may not be able to tell that the individual is disabled by simply looking at them. This may be the case for autistic individuals, those with mental health conditions, impaired hearing, cognitive impairments and so on.

One of the most basic rights of an individual is to be able to access, and benefit from, places of worship; and to feel welcomed and included in society. However, it appears that for many individuals with disabilities, this remains an unfulfilled reality.

In a 2020 survey that Amanati conducted, it was found that 76.6% of individuals from the Muslim UK community disagreed or strongly disagreed with the claim that enough was being done by Muslim communities to make their places of worship accessible and inclusive to people of all abilities. This lack of inclusion may be amplified for individuals with non-visible disabilities, as they may not receive as much understanding and support as those with visible disabilities, who may be more easily recognised. 

This may be surprising, not least because upholding social justice is essential to our faith but also because of the central importance placed on showing compassion and empathy to others. As Muslims, we seek to emulate the Prophet (ﷺ), and there is truly nobody more compassionate and loving like him (ﷺ). This is made clear in the following verse:

“There certainly has come to you a messenger from among yourselves. He is concerned by your suffering, anxious for your well-being, and gracious and merciful to the believers.” (Surah al-Tawbah 9:128)

We can see the reality of this verse when studying the seerah of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Our Prophet (ﷺ) would stand with the marginalised in society, he would care for the needy, visit the sick, console those suffering from hardship and tend to the needs of disabled people. For instance, on one occasion, when he was approached by a woman with a cognitive impairment, he remained by her side until her need was met. (Sahih Muslim)

In another tradition, we see the Prophet (ﷺ) emphasising the importance of not misleading or deceiving a blind person.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Allah curses anyone who misguides a blind person and leads him away from the path.(Al-Albani)

It is clear that the Prophet (ﷺ) would show care, empathy and compassion towards people with disabilities and special needs. We are therefore left asking ourselves, are we really taking Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) as our role model? Do the words of the Qur’an play an active part in our lives? If this was indeed the case, then would people with disabilities and their families feel so left out and uncared for in our communities?

It seems that there is no time more apt for reflecting on the changes needed than just after the holy month of Ramadan. A month where we sought Allah’s (SWT) special mercy and compassion by being kind and compassionate to those around us. A month where we aimed to gain closeness to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) by striving to become more like him. A month which places the communal experience at the centre, thus making inclusion and togetherness one of our top priorities.

The lack of inclusion and accommodation for the needs of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities is pertinent and needs addressing. The next part of this article seeks to highlight the physical and social barriers that disabled individuals and their families may face. It will also present ways in which mosques and Islamic centres can begin to make positive changes to promote inclusion and acceptance for those with special needs and disabilities. To help make these points clearer, a few experiences of those we have spoken to and worked with will be shared. However, we have used pseudonyms in place of real names to protect identities and maintain confidentiality. 

Physical Barriers

There are two kinds of barriers which may prevent, or make it difficult, for a disabled person and their family members or carers to attend places of worship and community centres: physical barriers and social barriers. The barrier that most likely comes to mind first is physical barriers.

Physical barriers can be understood as building structures that prevent or make it difficult for mobility and access. Typical examples of this would be no step-free access, narrow corridors, heavy doors, small door knobs and no disability-friendly toilets. More broadly understood, physical barriers can also mean the absence of appropriate resources or program accommodations which make it difficult for disabled individuals and their families to attend community events, mosques or Islamic centres. Examples of this would include very loud sound systems, no quiet/sensory rooms available, books with small fonts and no prayer chairs available in a mosque. Zainab, a wheelchair user shared her experience:

“When I have to use a wheelchair, my family members have to lift my wheelchair for me to enter the centre as there is no ramp. I also cannot pull the doors open as they are too heavy.” 

In order to overcome these physical barriers, adjustments to infrastructure need to be made (see here for a masjid certification program in the US). This may include (but is not limited to):

  • Providing disabled parking spaces
  • Ensuring step-free access into each room via ramps or lifts
  • Installing disability-friendly toilets
  • Allocating a sensory or quiet room in the mosque for self-regulation
  • Installing larger doors to accommodate for wheelchair users
  • Having automatic doors

In addition to this, it would also be essential to ensure suitable programme accommodations and resources are available such as:

  • Having a braille Qur’an on site
  • Making sensory boxes available for those who require sensory regulation. A sensory box contains a variety of materials and objects that stimulate the senses or help in providing sensory regulation. It may include things like: ear defenders (to reduce noise input), fidget toys (to minimise distractions), a weighted blanket, chewy toys and social story (to support in transition)
  • Providing sign language interpreters at key events for those with hearing impairments
  • Adjusting the sound system
  • Creating visual timetables or social stories of events for children with development conditions

The importance of such changes can be seen when looking at the experience of Huda. Huda is a mother of three, the eldest of which is on the severe end of the autism spectrum, has severe learning difficulties as well as ADHD. At school, her son requires the support of two adults throughout the day to help with managing his behaviour. Huda told Amanati that she struggles to take her son to community events that take place indoors as he cannot handle the noise and even more so, the speakers. He refuses to wear ear defenders too. The family feel like they miss out on being a part of the wider Muslim community. They often feel forgotten and neglected.

Social Barriers

The presence of these physical barriers is often correlated with social barriers which further prevent disabled individuals and their families from attending community events and places of worship. Social barriers are the negative attitudes, discrimination and stigma around disability that exists in our communities. These also discourage those with disabilities and their family members from attending as it can cause them to feel shame, guilt, discomfort, disrespect and can leave them feeling unwanted and unwelcome. Social barriers may have a greater impact because whilst physical barriers are confined to a particular location, social barriers can affect the person’s self-esteem, sense of belonging and mental health and well-being – thus affecting the disabled individual (and their families) wherever they go.

Social barriers make families, as in the case of Huda, feel unwelcome, at best, and actively discriminated against, at worst. Whilst stigma can sometimes be overt and obvious, such as being shouted at, it is perhaps most times, subtle and hidden. Examples include being stared at for looking or acting differently or getting unusual questions or comments. One of the responses in Amanati’s survey really highlighted this issue:

“My sister has learning disabilities and is on the autism spectrum. When interacting with the community (whether in places of worship or generally) accompanied by my sister, I often have people ask me questions about her in front of her, as though she was invisible. Sometimes these questions are hurtful (is your sister sick?) and other times they are just queries about my sister’s life, progress at school etc., but still directed to me. I think people feel awkward and/or wrongly assume she doesn’t understand or wouldn’t be able to respond to them. More awareness is what our community needs.”

It is also interesting to observe how our misunderstanding of Allah (SWT) and religion may also play a role in creating stigma. One community member affected by disability, told Amanati “people think disability is a punishment from Allah (SWT), so often people like to tell you that you are a sinner and Allah (SWT) has punished you for your sins (or your parents’ sins).”

Another example would be the automatic comments we may make like “may Allah cure your child”. In the words of Ahmed, a visually impaired brother, when someone does pray for him and for his blindness to go, “it can be quite disempowering, as if there is something wrong with me…If you want to pray for somebody, pray for their quality of life.” 

The solution to reducing social barriers is to continue raising awareness and educating our community. This can be done in many ways, such as:

  • Organising a conference where professionals and/or those with lived experience of disability can share expertise and experience.
  • Arranging a podcast where professionals or those with lived experience of disability can share their experiences and knowledge.
  • Running a special awareness day at your local mosque or madrassah (see here for examples).
  • Using social media to raise awareness about disabilities and special needs
  • Arranging for professional-led workshops to provide advice about disabilities and special needs.
  • Asking scholars to raise awareness in their Islamic sermons. This can be as simple as mentioning a story or a hadith about caring for disabled people.
  • Giving disabled people a voice in the community by including them in leadership positions such as the mosque committee.
  • Ensuring staff members and volunteers are trained in accommodating for and supporting those with disabilities and special needs (you can find a detailed guide here).

The truth is, each and every one of us, can play a role in reducing the barriers present in our communities. A key characteristic of a believer is to publicly enjoin good and forbid evil.

“You are the best community ever raised for humanity—you encourage good, forbid evil, and believe in Allah.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:110)  

So, we should all ask ourselves – have we openly spoken up about the lack of inclusion and accessibility we consistently witness with regards to those with disabilities? If we feel we are unable to make a large-scale practical change, we can start at a personal level by creating conversation about it. If we feel we cannot do that, then perhaps we can at least care. Caring would mean remembering them. It would mean empathising with their struggles and feeling concerned for them. Perhaps one of the most beautiful things we can do is turn to Allah (SWT) with heartfelt du’as for them. Slowly but surely, through our awareness, care and simple efforts, we will see a beautiful change.

List of relevant organisations


A non-profit organisation that raises awareness on disabilities and special needs and advocates for inclusion and accessibility in our communities. Amanati has also produced a more detailed guide for improving accessibility and inclusion in our mosques and islamic centres which can be downloaded here.

Association of Muslims With Disabilities (UK)

We are a voluntary organisation offering counselling and information on welfare benefits and health and social care for disabled Muslims. We run a drop-in centre on Saturdays 10am – 3pm. 020 8830 3821.


We have successfully engaged Deaf children and adults who are often isolated due to cultural taboos around Deafness and disability and broke down complex Islamic concepts to be deaf friendly making it accessible to the deaf community.

Autism Mosque

This is a project started by a mother who has two autistic children. She wanted Mosques to do more to welcome and accommodate autistic people and generally increase the awareness, understanding and acceptance of autistic people within the Muslim community. 

Madrasah Tuyoorul Jannah (Birds of Paradise)

We provide bespoke SEND teacher training for madrasah teachers and general advice to parents or organisations. 

Muhsen (Canada and America)

​Muhsen is a non-profit umbrella organisation serving the community to establish a more inclusive special-friendly environment for our Brothers and Sisters of all disabilities.

Al-Kisa Family

An Islamic platform supporting neurodiverse children and their families by providing a modified curriculum, resources, educational media and family support systems.

Mastering Madresah Inclusion

An international online training and certification program for madrassah teachers with special education needs students

*You may have also heard of the term Special Education Needs (SEN). This is specifically referring to needs a child or young person may have which affects their ability to learn and therefore requires some kind of special educational provision. Whilst disability and SEN may overlap, this is not always the case.



Amanati is a non-profit organisation that raises awareness on disabilities and special needs and advocates for inclusion and accessibility in our communities. Amanati has also produced a more detailed guide for improving accessibility and inclusion in our mosques and islamic centres which can be downloaded from their website.