Accessibility Laws for Faith

October 30, 2017 BY SOFIA ENAMORADO
Updated: June 3, 2019

The accessibility laws for faith organizations vary depending on how you are disseminating your content. If you broadcast your sermons on television, then you must comply with the FCC and CVAA, despite the ADA exemption.

Read below to learn more about how these accessibility laws apply to faith organizations.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by federal programs and activities, federal electronic and information technology, and any program receiving federal assistance.

If an organization does not comply, it could lead to a civil rights, discrimination lawsuit.


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to faith organizations that:

  • Applied for financial assistance from the United States Department of Labor (USDOL)
  • Partner with existing USDOL-supported program
  • Receive USDOL financial assistance (grant, sub-award, contract, in-kind assistance etc.)

Financial assistance includes both monetary funds and non-monetary funds like donation items, services, or free or discounted use of government space or property.

Organizations are expected to take the necessary actions to ensure individuals with disabilities can have equal access to their facility and programs.

Exemptions: Organizations with less than 15 employees and less than 15 participants during a program may be exempt.

The American with Disabilities Act of 1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

Religious organizations are exempt from complying with the ADA.

State Laws

Please note that while religious organizations may be exempt from the ADA, certain states could have laws that apply to religious institutions.

It is important to double check with your home state laws.

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Federal Communications Commission

As of 2011, religious organizations must comply with the FCC and CVAA captioning requirements.

The FCC requires religious broadcasts to be captioned. In addition, any video that previously appeared on television must be captioned. This includes montages and clips (including live and near-live clips which must be captioned within 12-hours of being published online.)

Under the FCC video programming distributors must comply with CEA-708 standards for closed captions.

Economically Burdensome Exemptions: Religious organizations can apply for exemptions if the costs for captioning prove to be an undue burden.


21st Century Video Accessibility Act

The CVAA states that all online video previously aired on television is required to have closed captioning (including clips and montages).

If your video content has never aired on television, this act does not apply to you.

If you are a video creator or content distributor then you are responsible for captioning.

Captions must be provided for the following types of video when published online:

  • Video that hasn’t been edited for internet distribution
  • Live and near live programming
  • Prerecorded video programming that is edited for the internet
  • Video clips and video montages
    • For live programming video clips, there is a 12-hour delay allowed for captions.
    • For near-live programming video clips, there is an 8-hour delay for captions.

Section 203: Video Programmin Apparatus

Video distributors must use media players that allow users to toggle captions on and off, select language for subtitles, and customize the display of the captions. Under the FCC video programming distributors must comply with CEA-708 standards for customizing caption displays.

Note, this does not apply to mobile devices, smartphones, game consoles, cellular telephones, and tablets.

Exemptions for closed captioning apply to video that is:

  • Consumer-generated media (such as homemade movies and videos that originated on the internet).
  • Internet-only video content (unless it was previously aired on American TV).
  • PEG channels (Public, educational, and government access television).

Download our infographic: Accessibility Laws for Religious Institutions

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