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Who Gets ADA Exemptions?

  • 2 min read

Are There Exemptions from The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Not many places of public accommodation get ADA exemptions. Places of Worship and some Private Clubs (establishments exempted from coverage under title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000-a(e))) are generally exempt from the provisions of the ADA – but that exemption is not absolute.

ADA exemptions for premises owned by places of worship or private clubs may be lost if the facilities are leased to operators of a place of public accommodation.

Also, determining what type of entity is considered to be a private club  is somewhat elusive as the term was not defined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

What Qualifies as a Private Club?

The Pepperdine Law Review in its article “The Private Club Exemption from Civil Rights Legislation – Sanctioned Discrimination or Justified Protection of Right to Associate” identifies some criteria that the courts have used to qualify organizations as private clubs, including:

  • The extent that the facilities of such establishment are made available to the customers or patrons of an establishment;
  • Numerical limit on membership;
  • Use of facilities by non-members;
  • Club advertisement;
  • Profit or non-profit status;
  • Public funding.

While the facilities of religious organizations and private clubs may be exempt from the retrofit provisions of the ADA, they risk excluding valuable members from participation in their organizations.

New Construction and Alterations

The 2015 International Building Code (IBC) has been adopted in New Jersey and many other jurisdictions to regulate the construction of new buildings. The accessibility provisions, which are found in Chapter 11 of the IBC, do not provide global ADA exceptions for religious organizations or private clubs. Alterations to existing buildings are required to include modifications that improve accessibility that do not disproportionately increase the cost of the alteration work.

The information provided in this article is based upon my review of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The 2010 Accessibility Guidelines, the Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Regulations.  And the Title III Technical Assistance Manual. It describes what I have found to be the most common issues encountered during my ADA investigations. For a more complete review of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) please refer to the law, regulations and standards referenced, herein.
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