Courts have come to different conclusions regarding whether Title III’s coverage is limited to physical spaces and whether a company’s website requires a nexus to a physical location to be subject to Title III’s protections. This uncertainty and lack of clarity regarding Title III’s scope is problematic for businesses that want to comply with Title III’s requirements, but do not necessarily want to foot the hefty bill for updating their websites consistent with the “gold standard” stated in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) established by the World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”) with the state of the law in flux.
In one case where the defendant, Bang & Olfusen, won its motion to dismiss, the court noted that the plaintiff had failed to plead a nexus between the physical place of public accommodation and the website in question. In the other case, the court dismissed the claims made against Domino’s because requiring the defendant to comply with a set of web accessibility guidelines that are not yet law would violate due process principles. The Domino’s decision is on appeal and will be reviewed by the Ninth Circuit in 2018. Our post about these cases is here.
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While an ADA retaliation claim does not warrant compensatory and punitive damages, lawyers are able to pursue compensation for their client’s legal fees, which may range from such amounts as $25,000 to astonishing digits. The court may also issue an injunction for the defendant to make their website accessible to people with disabilities by a specified date. In other cases, the defendant may be forced to pay a civil penalty.
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The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
Unfortunately for businesses, there is no magic bullet for website accessibility compliance and many website fixes can be cost-prohibitive for some companies. Many of these ADA website accessibility lawsuits have focused on larger businesses with perceived deeper pockets, likely because plaintiffs’ counsel believe these businesses are more willing to pay small settlements to dispose of these cases. Therefore, many smaller businesses that operate websites have opted to monitor developments until the Congress, the DoJ, or another agency provides better guidance. However, larger, more conservative businesses seeking to minimize litigation risk are often opting to retain a reputable web designer to ensure the company’s full compliance with WCAG 2.1 (or 2.0), or at least work toward that goal.
"III-3.6000 Retaliation or coercion. Individuals who exercise their rights under the ADA, or assist others in exercising their rights, are protected from retaliation. The prohibition against retaliation or coercion applies broadly to any individual or entity that seeks to prevent an individual from exercising his or her rights or to retaliate against him or her for having exercised those rights ... Any form of retaliation or coercion, including threats, intimidation, or interference, is prohibited if it is intended to interfere."
Under Title III, no individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation. Public accommodations include most places of lodging (such as inns and hotels), recreation, transportation, education, and dining, along with stores, care providers, and places of public displays.
Quite a few complaints are based on the fact that many online services can be treated as “public accommodations”, and the ADA protects the rights of physically impaired to receive such services at the same level and quality as everyone else. That’s why entities that provide extra services on their websites that are not available through channels other than online resources will most likely be facing legal claims. That is if their website does not conform to WCAG 2.1 (or to Section 508 for state and government agencies) and has issues that limit impaired people’s capabilities to have full access to the site.
Our team of experienced experts utilizes knowledge and proprietary technology to provide extensive detailed reports on what compliance issues exist on your entity’s website and PDFs. If you have a trusted developer to work on your website and PDFs, you can have them make the needed updates and changes. Don’t have a developer? ADA Site Compliance offers a custom, managed compliance solution for entities of all sizes. Our in-house developers will analyze, remediate and monitor your site’s ADA compliance for you.
ADA website compliance is a hot topic among any business that has a website (and in today’s world, that really is 99% of them). You’ve likely seen news stories about companies that are getting sued or settling out of court for having a website that doesn’t comply with the American Disabilities Act and you’re also probably wondering if this affects you or your business.