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Ask the Chairman - Must all ceremony sites be ADA compliant?

October 29, 2016     Ask the Chairman

Q. Greetings Ray,

There seems to be the impression among members of our lodge that, due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we must have all of our OA ceremony rings handicap accessible.

Two locations are on flat ground and have a short approach on flat ground. The other two potential sites (we have rings at four council camps) that we’re looking to use require going up a slope. However, one site can have the candidate driven up to the ring for short, flat access. The other site they can be driven there but go down a short slope to the ring.

The contention is that with two rings fully accessible, are we required to have the other two equally accessible? Ceremonies are at each of the four locations each year, so handicap access is fine.

Please clarify if the ADA requires a lodge to have all of its ceremony rings handicap accessible and, if so, to what degree.

My thanks for the much needed information.


A. Dear Larry,

Thank you for your question concerning lodge ceremony rings and compliance with the  Americans with Disabilities Act. I am not a lawyer, so I sought some information from the BSA's  legal advisors.

As Scouts and Scouters, we should certainly do what we can to enable those with disabilities to participate in our programs as fully as possible. However, I am told that that councils and lodges are not required to make all of their outdoor facilities and camps wheelchair­accessible if they are not generally open to the public. I would not expect that a lodge ceremony ring would be considered to be open to the public. More importantly, you have described your efforts to make reasonable accommodation by providing transportation for those unable to walk to your ceremonial rings. From what I understand, such an accommodation should be sufficient. Let me suggest that the ceremony you contemplate for those who are disabled might be conducted at one of the two ceremony circles you mention are easily accessible for them.

I need to repeat that I am not a lawyer, and this response is not legal advice. I suggest that you consult with your council's attorney, on whose advice you could rely. Also, he or she would know whether there are also state law requirements that might apply to your camp.

I hope this reply is helpful, and I thank you for your service to the Order and Scouting.