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FMG Law Blog Line

ADA Website Compliance: More Than Just a Good Idea

Posted on: November 16th, 2016

By: Paul H. Derrick

Since its passage in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has become nearly ubiquitous, perhaps best known for its applicability to workplaces, wheelchair access, and service animals. Surprisingly few people, however, are aware that the ADA also applies to websites and other internet-based “places.” For businesses (and their lawyers) unfamiliar with ADA website compliance, trouble could be looming on the horizon.

Businesses That Must Comply

Generally, Title III of the ADA requires a “place of public accommodation” to provide equal access to goods and services to everyone, regardless of any disability. This mandate applies to most businesses, including hotels, retail stores, law firms, sports venues, and more. (Title II of the ADA makes many of the same requirements applicable to state and local governments.) The U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforces the ADA, has made it clear that it also applies to entities that do business, and even those that exist solely, online.

Specifically, the DOJ has ruled that websites and mobile apps must be accessible to individuals with a broad range of disabilities. Although the proposed amendments to the ADA may not come out until 2018, the DOJ received over 6,000 accessibility complaints in 2015 alone. Businesses that have not made provisions to ensure that their websites are ADA compliant face an array of legal and financial consequences, not all of which are from the government.

Some plaintiffs’ firms already are using software that tests websites for non-compliance and automatically generates a demand letter and draft settlement agreement whenever a non-compliant site is found. (Not surprisingly, most websites are at least partially non-compliant.) The demand letter typically seeks to resolve the alleged violations on an expedited basis and includes stipulations for injunctive relief and payment of attorneys’ fees. Requested remedial measures may include adoption of a website accessibility policy, regular testing of website features by an independent third party, creation or designation of one or more website management positions within the organization, and more.

To continue reading the full article on The Voice of the Defense Bar website, please click here.

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