Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public accommodations to provide accessible goods and services to people with disabilities. While most Title III litigation has focused on access to physical facilities, in recent years many companies have received demand letters alleging that their websites do not meet accessibility standards. of the ADA. For years, the question of ADA coverage of websites and specific design requirements has been very uncertain. In March, the Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforces Title III, issued guidance confirming that companies offering goods or services online to the public must take steps to ensure their websites are accessible to people disabilities.
the orientation provides a list of common barriers to website accessibility, including low contrast, use of color to convey information, lack of text alternatives on images, lack of captioning on videos, and mouse navigation only. The guidelines state that the DOJ has not issued regulations on website access, but does point to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 standards (used for government websites Federal) as a means of ensuring compliance.
This guidance raises several legal issues that the federal courts have not addressed. Does Title III really apply to websites as opposed to physical facilities? Assuming this is the case, will the DOJ attempt to use WCAG and Section 508 as binding legal requirements? Some of the recommended measures, such as captioning all videos used on websites, could prove extremely costly for businesses. It’s likely that plaintiffs’ attorneys who have built their practices by threatening companies with ADA Title III lawsuits will use the DOJ guidelines to issue another round of claims against companies whose websites are deemed not to follow these best practices.