Q&A: Meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Requirements

Does our church need to meet ADA requirements?

Our church is adding a handicapped accessible bathroom in the narthex. The town approved the plan, and the project is underway. We received a sudden notice from another township official saying we need an emergency strobe light, compatible with ADA for the project. This light would cost one-tenth of the total project. Aren’t churches exempt from ADA requirements? Do we have reason to appeal?
The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is to prevent discrimination against disabled persons in two basic areas—employment, and construction of and access to buildings and transportation. With respect to construction, those provisions of the ADA do not apply to churches. The employment provisions do apply.
Churches are not required to think about the needs of the general public when undergoing construction (which is not to say that they should not think about the needs of the disabled), but they do need to take their current and future employees’ needs into consideration.
The ADA is a federal law, and many jurisdictions will have other local laws or requirements with similar provisions for disabled persons that must be met. In the event that your church may want to “appeal” these requirements, there are usually administrative hearings or proceedings that may be requested. Such actions are likely to be expensive, therefore, making this action no more cost effective.

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