January 19, 2017
Authored by: BCLP and Merrit Jones
Retailers have faced a wave of demand letters and lawsuits recently alleging that their websites are inaccessible in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”), despite the fact that the ADA and its implementing regulations do not expressly address websites. This is the second in a three-part series addressing ADA access claims. In a December 1st post we addressed how to reduce potential liability for premises issues, and this post focuses on website accessibility.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals “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), which includes brick and mortar retail stores.
The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is the government agency that enforces the ADA and issues regulations concerning its implementation. The DOJ is in the process of developing regulations for website accessibility, but is not expected to finalize these regulations until 2018 at the earliest.
While government regulations are being developed, the demand letters and lawsuits typically demand compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level AA guidelines created by an industry group, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Despite its stalled regulations, the DOJ has made clear its position that the ADA applies to websites, and that WCAG 2.0 level AA provides an appropriate standard for website accessibility.
A final rule was announced recently under Section 508 of the