• Website Accessibility: Businesses Still Must Worry About ADA
  • August 24, 2017 | Authors: Marjorie A. Corwin; Robert A. Gaumont; Christopher R. Rahl
  • Law Firm: Gordon Feinblatt LLC - Baltimore Office
  • On July 20, 2017, notice was given through the Unified Regulatory Agenda that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has categorized as “inactive” the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website rulemaking. However, this should not cause businesses to delay making sure their websites are accessible to disabled individuals. The ADA has not changed and mandates that "[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation …." 42 U.S.C. §12182(a). There has been a significant increase in private lawsuits that claim websites violate the ADA. Hundreds of cases have been filed – with many being filed in just the past two months. In the absence of federal regulations, the courts are making decisions, and nearly all of these courts have let the cases proceed past motions to dismiss. The absence of the DOJ regulations has not been an effective defense in the vast majority of cases. Interestingly, in an amicus brief filed July 19, 2017 by the DOJ in connection with a case the Supreme Court has been asked to review, the DOJ seems to be taking a less aggressive view of ADA obligations than previously. The amicus brief addressed ADA responsibilities of vending machine suppliers. The brief asserts that vending machines are not in and of themselves public accommodations and, therefore, not necessarily subject to ADA accessibility obligations. However, the DOJ recognizes that questions “concerning [ADA] Title III’s application to non-physical establishments – including websites or digital services – may someday warrant this [Supreme] Court’s attention.” Perhaps, under the current administration, the federal government will not aggressively pursue ADA website claims, but we predict the private lawsuits and demand letters will not stop any time soon. An outline of action steps to improve a website’s accessibility for individuals with disabilities can be found here. Please contact Margie Corwin if you have questions or would like to discuss this subject in greater detail.