Religious Organizations and ADA: Are Church Websites Exempt?
There is a lot of confusion right now about who is responsible and who is exempt when it comes to creating website accommodations for all under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. Exemptions for churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations are covered under Title III. However, many other types of businesses and organizations that were provided exemptions under Title I, due to having less than 15 employees or operating their business for less than 20 weeks out of the year, quickly discovered that this exemption did not extend to websites or apps. While some judges still maintain an exemption for religious organizations and ADA requirements for accessibility, there is always the possibility that this will change in the courts. On the other side of the coin, the question that should be asked of religious leaders is, why wouldn’t you want to provide accessibility to your web-based properties for all?
The Mission of Religious Organizations
One might argue that the job of the church, or any religious leader, is to share information about the faith with others. While religious organizations and ADA have maintained an exemption regarding the requirement to provide accommodations for disabled visitors, most have decided to offer opportunities designed to allow access and interaction for all. Many take the steps necessary to provide adequate parking spaces, wheelchair ramps, and audio tools, which can be used by the hearing impaired and also for language translation. Being able to reach as many people as possible is often the mission of religious organizations, so why not make an effort to accommodate every aspect of the Americans with Disabilities Act even if you are not required to do so?
There are certain things that can be done to make it easier for those who have difficulty seeing or hearing, as well as for those who are blind or deaf. Other accommodations can be made for those with mobility or motor issues, and challenges for those with auditory or visual experiences. Some houses of worship make rules about perfume for those with allergies, offer gluten-free options for ceremonies and events, and even prevent members from bringing peanut or tree-nut goodies to fundraisers. Accommodations are made by faith-based organizations in many different ways, even when it is not required by law, so why do so many seem to be anxious to find out that they are exempt from building accessible websites? The answer that we are hearing is usually the same reason given by other types of businesses when they find out about website accessibility: concerns about cost.
ADA Compliance and Churches
Religious organizations that want to ensure website accommodations for all have a couple of choices when it comes to creating websites with comprehensive accessibility features for members, employees, and visitors. Simple adjustments can be made to an existing website to make it easier for individuals with visual and audio impairments to navigate and read the information presented. However, this approach won’t provide website accommodations for all. There are many other types of disabilities that must be considered, and some of the changes designed to meet the needs of the Americans with Disabilities Act will leave your website very plain-looking for everyone else. There are a few plug-in approaches that some websites are using, but the truth is that most of these fail to meet ADA compliance, and churches end up searching for other solutions.
At SouthCoast Internet, we spent a lot of time reading about website accommodations for all to locate an ADA compliant solution that would allow disabled persons to effectively navigate and use a website without compromising the quality of the design or content for everyone else. We also wanted a solution that would be affordable, easy to implement, and that would provide protection going forward for any new posts, pages, or content that would be posted to the website. While it might be debatable about the requirements of religious organizations and ADA compliance for some, when it comes right down to it, the smart approach is to make sure that anyone who wants to visit your website can do so. Otherwise, why even have a website in the first place? Accessibility should be like charity – not something that is forced upon a person by a government or made mandatory for an organization by law, but a choice that we make as people who care about other people to do the right thing.
A Comprehensive Solution
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title III, all business websites need to be accessible to people who have disabilities, or they will be at risk of being sued. The best solution is to take a proactive approach to ADA compliance and churches to protect your organization and provide accessibility to your congregation, employees, and any new visitors. The program that we have found uses artificial intelligence and machine-learning to make existing websites compliant within 48-hours of installation. What’s more, the program continues to scan the websites every 24-hours to ensure that any new posts or content are also compliant according to the latest ADA, WCAG 2.1, and Section 508 compliance standards. The cost is just under $500 a year for websites with less than 1,000 pages, and our team at SouthCoast Internet can help you to implement this system right away. Avoid expensive lawsuits and make your website more accessible to everyone who visits your religious organization’s website with this ADA compliant solution. Call our team directly at 508-415-8648 or visit our ADA compliance page for additional information.