Wheelchair Ramp

macsound

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Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
Since I haven't been mixing at my usual church, I haven't noticed the progress but here's the back story.
Church moved into a new building in 2017-18 but was an existing church previously in an older building. In the old building the stage was about 16' deep x 35' wide. The new space the stage is about 4' shallower because they needed to include a wheelchair ramp. Somehow the ramp was determined to be cheaper than a lift and if slope was 20:1, they didn't have to include a railing. They decided to put the ramp on the front of the stage so it didn't eat up real estate and wasn't glaringly obvious.

While we've been in shelter in place, some people including the pastor have decided to level off the ramp by adding a wedge shaped platform that matches the angle of the ramp. Good idea in theory.

I haven't spoken to them about this, just saw photos from another volunteer who stopped by to look at some equipment.
What, legally, would happen if and when they get inspected? Who would do the inspecting? Would someone have to be a whistleblower in order for them to get inspected or would it happen? This is in California if that makes a difference.

Any insight would be appreciated. It makes me somewhere between angry and disappointed to know a church has removed handicapped access to the stage. Doesn't change my feelings on areas that may be exempt for some other reason, but this rather blatant.
Thanks
 

Ben Stiegler

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Aug 3, 2017
Location
Sf Bay Area
do you understand this to be termporary (for streaming services), or permanent? I suppose the law would say "both are violations", but maybe one is less egrarious ...
 

macsound

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Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
Based on the effort and finishing of it, it sure seems to be permanent. I can't see what they would gain by using it for the livestream since we've been doing that since day 1. And it's usually just a trio during the livestream I can't imagine why they'd need space.
Part of it is perplexing at all, like they knew what they were getting into, almost like those people that put carpet and couches on their cement patios but not temporarily, but part of me is just angry too that they didn't discuss it with us so we could tell them it was dumb!
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Churches are exempt from Federal ADA regs - church and state issues. I suspect a local authority would try to talk them into restoring accessibility but would bend over backwards to not get into legal territory. My guess us if no one complained, any normal building inspector would overlook it. For a government to try to take a church to court is never a winner.
 

macsound

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Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
Oh wow Bill I had no idea.
Edit:
Just did a little googling and it looks like CA code overrides federal ADA though.
Places of worship may be exempted from ADA but not from California Building Code (2007 CBC) 1134B "Accessibility for Existing Buildings" and 1104B.6 "Religious facilities"
 

Ben Stiegler

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Aug 3, 2017
Location
Sf Bay Area
hopefully someone at arms length from you will notice and make some noise ... sounds like you are an employee or contractor, not congregant?
 
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TimMc

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Premium Member
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Feb 15, 2017
There is a small group of lawyers who hire persons with various physical/mobility/access issues and has them attempt to access buildings and utilize those buildings as fully-able people can. While I don't condone the "setup" aspect of the lawyers and "complainants", either we're really going to provide access or we're not.

That a church would remove handicap access is, to me, reprehensible. Maybe they're counting on continuous faith healings?
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
That a church would remove handicap access is, to me, reprehensible.
And most people with disabilities think using the term "handicap" is analogous to using the "n" word for people of color. http://nda.ie/Publications/Attitudes/Appropriate-Terms-to-Use-about-Disability/ It's hard not to discriminate.

Also, I don't think providing an accessible route to a platform or control room is on a par with assembly seating and restrooms. Throw in religion, and it is not entirely clear at all.

Does your facility provide CART (computer assisted real-time transcription)? If you don't, you might want to label yourself reprehensible. https://www.ada.gov/effective-comm.htm (Don't feel bad if you didn't know it. I was with several "theatre people" at a session with US Access Board and it surprised us, since we'd not seen it in a theatre. I think the kennedy center has it.0
 

macsound

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Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
Yea I'm a long term contractor. I'd agree that rolling access to the stage isn't the same as rolling access to the audience. To be honest, we determined the booth size and height off the floor specifically to get around needing a ramp.

The stage ramp was also installed for other purposes like rolling gear, the portable baptismal (hot tub) and scaffolding. They've kinda botched all of that.

I also see churches as a place that naturally has lots of old people. Kind of like theatre. So knowing we have a 1-2 people in wheelchairs and 2-3 people with walkers in the congregation, one could surmise they'd be pissed if a life event (funeral?) might persuade them on stage to say a few words but instead be relegated to the floor in the dark.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
You don't have to convince me of the righteousness to not discriminate based on a physical disability or any number of other things. I don't however believe in or recommend relying on legal remedies as the first step to better the situation, and not sure the threat of such legal remedies would be successful in persuading the powers that be to correct the situation.

I don't know your relationship or role with the institution sufficiently to suggest a strategy but it seems you may have to build support among members and regulars of the church and probably address this with the leaders, and try to persuade them to not discriminate. It may be that a solution other than restoring the ramp that was there is more palatable and more likely to be accepted, but I don't know. No doubt, money will play a role. That includes your considering the possibility of refusing to work for them if they do not correct the defect.

Ultimately you can't win them all. I have one school in the post ADA era where the control room is not accessible. The architect found an unnamed someone who said it was not required. I am certain he was wrong. I did finish that project but declined to work for that firm again and left my final report noting that defect.

So good luck. I support your intent, just not sure you can use government to coerce a religious organization to not discriminate on basis of physical disability or any other basis for that matter.
 

Ben Stiegler

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Aug 3, 2017
Location
Sf Bay Area
as someone who has had to wrestle with both temporary and permanent disabilities over the past years, I have become a lot more attuned to and sympathetic with the need to maintain accessibility. In my younger days, I too sometimes looked for ways to avoid compliance. "Who would send an engineer in a wheelchair to get behind that rack?" Having been on knee scooter for 2 extended surgical recoveries ... wow, new perspective. I was consulting at a venue 2 months ago which had a nice lift to reach the control booth ... but, darn, it was broken, and being used as storage. After trying for 5 mins to resuscitate it, I had to recruit someone to carry my scooter up the stairs while i ascended on my keiser. What a waste of the investment in the lift. And I've seen this in other schools frequently, too.
 

MNicolai

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Fight Leukemia
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Mar 30, 2008
Location
Sarasota, FL
@Ben Stiegler, I don't know if wheelchair lifts are inherently more trouble or if owners are just bad at maintaining them, but it seems like wheelchair lifts are frequently broken or finicky. Sometimes it's a bad sensor that prevents the lift from moving, sometimes the door mechanism gets broken because someone impatiently pulls the door open faster than the motor can cycle. Compared to elevators that almost never out of order and are quickly serviced as-needed, wheelchair lifts seem to have a lot more downtime and when they go down, they tend to stay down.

Could just owners don't maintain them in the same manner that elevators would be maintained, but based on what I've seen from venues open 5-10 years, ramps and elevators have better track records.
 
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Kristi R-C

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Jan 21, 2016
Location
Wisconsin
And most people with disabilities think using the term "handicap" is analogous to using the "n" word for people of color. http://nda.ie/Publications/Attitudes/Appropriate-Terms-to-Use-about-Disability/ It's hard not to discriminate.

Also, I don't think providing an accessible route to a platform or control room is on a par with assembly seating and restrooms. Throw in religion, and it is not entirely clear at all.

Does your facility provide CART (computer assisted real-time transcription)? If you don't, you might want to label yourself reprehensible. https://www.ada.gov/effective-comm.htm (Don't feel bad if you didn't know it. I was with several "theatre people" at a session with US Access Board and it surprised us, since we'd not seen it in a theatre. I think the kennedy center has it.0
The GalaPro system does this. In most instances it can "listen" to the stage show well enough to follow along automatically. I ended up running it by hand for Phantom when they were here in December because it can't follow the bel canto singing style of opera.
 
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Malabaristo

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Jul 11, 2008
Location
Wisconsin
@Ben Stiegler, I don't know if wheelchair lifts are inherently more trouble or if owners are just bad at maintaining them, but it seems like wheelchair lifts are frequently broken or finicky.
According to the guy who regularly services both in our district, wheelchair lifts are not nearly as well made as elevators. He hates working on lifts. Case in point: we have two lifts with built-in backup batteries, and both batteries failed within the first 12-18 months after installation. The control electronics get their power through the battery, so a completely dead battery will prevent the lift from working--even when normal power is present. I found a full schematic tucked inside one of the access covers and that was just one of a number of really "creative" design choices I noticed.