Discussion: View Thread

1.  Religious Entities

Posted 03-29-2017 18:55

Be careful applying exemptions under ADA!

ADA does exempt religious entities and private clubs.  It also exempts B & B where the homeowner lives on the premises.

But - there are exceptions to the exceptions, were the spaces are leased, open to the general public, or perhaps provide voting facilities for the community for example – these spaces, areas, and facilities are covered.  For example, the missions in California are operated and owned by the Catholic Dioceses, but many spaces at the missions are leased to vendors and open to the public as tourist attractions.  Some missions provide nurseries and schools also open to the general public. These areas and spaces are covered because the church membership or affiliation is not required to participate and fees are collected in lieu of charitable contributions or offerings.  If you visit a California mission and it falls on you and kills you – you can sue the Catholic Dioceses they are not above the law.


In California, as in other states, including Florida, our state constitutions (or codes and regulations – depending on state's administrative structure) do not exempt religious institutions from obeying civil codes, seismic and building codes, health and safety codes, etc...  In fact, most people don't realize that the majority of states have civil rights that provide greater protections than the ADA and FHAA!


Here's the rub....

Building codes are created through a different conferring process then federal regulations promulgated from law.  Many building codes in the states are published "model codes" that are written and amended by ...well anyone. The provisional model codes don't become enforceable until adopted by the state.  It is a false assumption that if you design to the building code you are good to go.

Architects should have a strong understanding of applicable state and federal state laws, since accessibility typically falls under our disciple of practice.


Warm Regards,


Dawn Anderson, AIA

Principal Architect, #25835

California Access Specialist, #CASp-050

ADA Coordinator, ACTCP #3244212-4617

ICC Combination & Accessibility Inspector/Plan Reviewer, #10117422

OSHPD Inspector of Record, #20314

Texas Accessibility Specialist, #1372

Minnesota Accessibility Specialist (BO) #AS698737


As It Stands

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80 Gilman Ave.  Suite 2F

Campbell, CA. 95008

Direct: 408) 422-6155





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2.  RE: Religious Entities

Posted 03-30-2017 18:15

I agree 100% always adhere to the LATEST ADA regulation & note that they change all the time.  What was true yesterday may no longer be to code.


Adrian Martinez AIA

Sonoma CA

3.  RE: Religious Entities

Posted 04-01-2017 10:45
What is the big deal?  Go ahead and make it accessible for God's sake!

Tim Latto AIA
Tim Latto Architect
Johns Island SC

4.  RE: Religious Entities

Posted 03-31-2017 13:54
Understanding where and when various requirements apply is often a confusing issue. As architects one point to remember is that the ADA is federal civil rights legislation and not a building code. It’s application is nation wide. The design guidelines (ADAAG) have been developed to help us apply the requirements to our built environment in a consistent way. The guidelines are not all inclusive since specific issues evolve and are defined as the courts rule on the discrimination cases as filed. This is one reason to never make a statement that your projects meets all ADA requirements. State that to the best of your knowledge and understanding the project has been designed to meet the requirements of the ADA.
As pointed out in several responses, state and local laws and codes can extend the application, scoping and requirements. However, they cannot lessen the federal requirements.
Jeff Messick, AIA
jmessick design

Jeffrey Messick AIA
Lawrence KS