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By: Joyce Mocek
The Eleventh Circuit recently held that websites of businesses open to the public are not necessarily considered places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodations, such as hotels, grocery stores, and restaurants. However, the ADA as drafted does not specifically include websites of such places of public accommodations. As a result, there has been uncertainty as to how, when and if the ADA applies to websites of businesses that are generally open to the public.
The Eleventh Circuit decision vacates a 2017 Florida court decision that held that Winn-Dixie’s website violated the ADA because it was “heavily integrated with” and served as a “gateway” to the grocery store’s physical locations. Winn Dixie did not actually sell its products on its website, although it had a few services its customers could use through its website such as filling prescriptions. The underlying Florida court had ruled the website did not offer a visually impaired customer “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations,” and as a result it violated the ADA. In its decision, the Eleventh Circuit found that the absence of “auxiliary aids” on the Winn Dixie website did not act as “intangible barriers” to the customers, and “absent congressional action that broadens the definition of ‘places of public accommodation’ to include websites” ADA liability should not be extended. This ruling helps to clarify the applicability of Title III of the ADA to the websites of businesses that are generally open to the public.
For more information about this topic, please contact Joyce Mocek at [email protected].