Website Accessibility Under the ADA

In the year 2018, more than 2,200 cases were filed regarding website accessibility cases.  The lawsuits typically involve the usability of a website by people with disabilities. 

On January 15, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a blind plaintiff could sue Domino’s Pizza for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) due to the company’s allegedly inaccessible website and mobile app.  Domino’s is one of thousands of businesses of all types and sizes across the country being sued for allegedly inaccessible websites.  The inundation of lawsuits is fueled in large part by a lack of clarity regarding standards for website accessibility under the ADA.

In general, the ADA requires places of public accommodation (e.g., public places, restaurants, hotels, retail stores and shops, and doctors’ offices) to be accessible to persons with disabilities.  Since a website facilitates access to the goods and services of a place of public accommodation, the place’s website must also be accessible.  This may require, for example, that the website offers auxiliary aids in communication (e.g., providing audio translations of website text).  However, Congress and the Department of Justice (the “Department”) have not adopted regulations, standards, or guidelines to clarify what is required for a website to be ADA compliant (i.e., accessible).  In the Domino’s case, the Ninth Circuit concluded that requiring compliance with certain industry standards for website accessibility could be an equitable remedy for the blind plaintiff. 

Without a doubt, businesses subject to the ADA are in a dilemma.  Redesigning a website for ADA compliance can be extremely expensive.  On the other hand, defending a lawsuit is also expensive.  Unfortunately, until Congress or the Department provide technical specifications or guidance for website accessibility, many businesses remain targets for these lawsuits. 

We will continue to monitor the Domino’s case as well as other cases involving website accessibility.  In the meantime, businesses are encouraged to review their website to determine if any website updates are necessary. 

By Alan Dale 

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