Over the last two years, there has been an explosion of lawsuits brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) concerning issues involving website accessibility. These lawsuits have often involved the vision and hearing impaired and concern whether certain websites impermissibly lack assistive technologies for those types of disabilities. The Internet community has been waiting for some time on the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), tasked with the ADA’s regulation and enforcement, to issue regulations providing specific guidance on such issues. Recently, the DOJ reversed course, and formally withdrew its prior stated intent to give advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, signaling that such regulations, if any, will not be coming any time soon. See https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-12-26/pdf/2017-27510.pdf.
What Types of Website Accessibility Issues Can Be Raised in ADA Litigation?
Right now, the answer is possibly as vast as the myriad unique challenges that E-commerce businesses and interactive websites can present to persons with various disabilities. Many class action lawsuits brought under the ADA have concerned the lack of assistive technologies for the hearing and vision impaired, such as text-to-speech capabilities of apps, and captions for users of online courses. Disabled users typically seek, among other things, website designs that are easy to navigate and compatible with screen-reading software.
Protect Your Business or Website Against an ADA Lawsuit.
We have written extensively about the increased interest of class action attorneys in pursuing various website accessibility claims under the ADA. Courts have taken different views on whether the ADA applies to companies with only an online presence, as opposed to websites associated with traditional retail businesses that also have a physical location (i.e., “places of accommodation,” a term employed by Title III of the ADA). With the lack of regulatory guidance concerning ADA website accessibility compliance, it is more important than ever to confer with experienced counsel in order to assess the risks and ways to avoid or minimize ADA website accessibility class action exposure.