When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, the focus of Title III in the law was, and still is, providing accessibility for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations and commercial facilities. Framers saw Title III’s language exclusively in terms of “brick and mortar” and the internet wasn’t contemplated then. However, Title III lawsuits in recent years have been aimed at websites for such places with no end in sight.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that Congress hasn’t amended the ADA to take into account the internet, nor has the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) finalized regulations on the matter. In 2010, DOJ issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on ADA compliance with website access and it languished until the ANPRM was withdrawn on December 26, 2017.
In June 2018, 103 bipartisan members of the U.S. House wrote to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking that he “state publicly that private legal action under the ADA with respect to websites is unfair and violates the basic, due process principles in the absence of clear statutory authority and issuance by the department of a final rule establishing website accessibility standards.” The response from DOJ reiterated its interpretation that the ADA applies to websites based on the privately developed Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.0 or 2.1, and essentially kicked the issue back to Congress.
There has been little relief from the judicial branch, either, and on October 7, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Domino’s Pizza, LLC’s appeal of a Ninth Circuit decision that found its website and mobile app weren’t ADA compliant. This refusal to hear Domino’s Pizza v Robles indicates that ADA website lawsuits will continue.
Several companies provide audit services to identify potential website problems as they relate to ADA compliance. IHA makes no warranties or guarantees as to these organizations’ capabilities or appropriateness for your company’s specific needs but provide this information as a potential resource for ADA website compliance. Two companies providing this service are Get ADA Accessible and Deque.