Design & Construction

Church Facilities: How To Be Accessible

Robert Carr Chapel, which was built in 1952, had multiple levels. GFF worked with Texas Christian University to make the chapel more accessible, including adding a lift to take people with mobility challenges from the first level to the second.

Accessibility for churches can get complicated fast. Here are seven things you might not know about making it easy to participate.


Cathy Hutchison  ·  August 15, 2017

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Did you know that Title III of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), which applies to places of public accommodation and commercial facilities, does not apply to religious organizations?

Well sort of.

The key phrase describing exempt spaces is “regularly and exclusively used for worship”.

If there are parts of the building that are used by non-religious entities, those will need to be accessible, and then there is the 2015 IBC (International Building Code) which shares similar guidelines to ADA and does cover houses of worship.

It gets even more complicated when you start to look at specific guidelines by state. And then there are the local authorities having jurisdiction…

Accessibility can get complicated fast.

Here are 7 things to keep in mind as your church considers how to become more accessible:

1. THIS ISN’T JUST ABOUT WHEELCHAIR ACCESS

“Disability rights laws go beyond mobility impairments,” shares Ashley Pitts, senior consultant with Jensen-Hughes in Denver, Colorado who specializes in accessibility consulting. “The laws also protect the rights of people with other physical impairments, such as vision and hearing impairments — and those with mental disabilities.”

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