In court, Netflix tried to argue that websites should not be part of ADA compliance regulations, as there is no physical structure / location. They also argued that websites should not be in scope of ADA as there is no public component (the original ADA compliance law specifically called out that ADA rules apply primarily to services, locations, and products that are supposed to be open to the public).
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That’s good news if you are one of the many Americans who have a visual, hearing, or mobility disability that makes it difficult to access some information on the web. If you are a business owner who hasn’t made provisions to ensure that your website and other online assets are ADA compliant, you could be looking at a host of legal and financial penalties.
Finally, while case law may offer some clarification to Title III’s requirements, the U.S. Supreme Court has not indicated that it intends to take up the Circuit Courts of Appeals’ split any time soon.  Therefore, a business that operates a website and conducts business across multiple states may desire to further compare its website format with both agency and judicial guidelines discussed above to further evaluate risk.

The ADA provides explicit coverage for service animals.[22][23] Guidelines have been developed not only to protect persons with disabilities but also to indemnify businesses from damages related to granting access to service animals on their premises. Businesses are allowed to ask if the animal is a service animal and ask what tasks it is trained to perform, but they are not allowed to ask the service animal to perform the task nor ask for a special ID of the animal. They cannot ask what the person's disabilities are. A person with a disability cannot be removed from the premises unless either of two things happen: the animal is out of control and its owner cannot get it under control (e.g. a dog barking uncontrollably in a restaurant), or the animal is a direct threat to people's health and safety. Allergies and fear of animals would not be considered a threat to people's health and safety, so it would not be a valid reason to deny access to people with service animals. Businesses that prepare or serve food must allow service animals and their owners on the premises even if state or local health laws otherwise prohibit animals on the premises. In this case, businesses that prepare or serve food are not required to provide care or food for service animals, nor do they have to provide a designated area for the service animal to relieve itself. Lastly, people that require service dogs cannot be charged an extra fee for their service dog or be treated unfairly, for example, being isolated from people at a restaurant. People with disabilities cannot be treated as "less than" other customers. However, if a business normally charges for damages caused by the person to property, the customer with a disability will be charged for his/her service animal's damages to the property.

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.


Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd.[64] was a case that was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2005. The defendant argued that as a vessel flying the flag of a foreign nation it was exempt from the requirements of the ADA. This argument was accepted by a federal court in Florida and, subsequently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower courts on the basis that Norwegian Cruise Lines was a business headquartered in the United States whose clients were predominantly Americans and, more importantly, operated out of port facilities throughout the United States.

Under 2010 revisions of Department of Justice regulations, newly constructed or altered swimming pools, wading pools, and spas must have an accessible means of entrance and exit to pools for disabled people. However, the requirement is conditioned on whether providing access through a fixed lift is "readily achievable". Other requirements exist, based on pool size, include providing a certain number of accessible means of entry and exit, which are outlined in Section 242 of the standards. However, businesses are free to consider the differences in the application of the rules depending on whether the pool is new or altered, or whether the swimming pool was in existence before the effective date of the new rule. Full compliance may not be required for existing facilities; Section 242 and 1009 of the 2010 Standards outline such exceptions.[21]
 The courts are split regarding whether Title III’s definition of “public accommodations” is limited to physical spaces.  Courts within the First, Second, and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have found that a website can be a place of public accommodation independent of any connection to a physical space.  Carparts Distrib. Ctr., Inc. v. Auto. Wholesaler’s Ass’n of New England, Inc., 37 F.3d 12, 19 (1st Cir. 1994); Nat’l Ass’n of the Deaf v. Netflix, Inc., 869 F. Supp. 2d 196, 200 (D. Mass. 2012); Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind v. Scribd Inc., 97 F. Supp. 3d 565, 576 (D. Vt. 2015); Andrews v. Blick Art Materials, LLC, 268 F. Supp. 3d 381, 393 (E.D.N.Y. 2017); Morgan v. Joint Admin. Bd., Ret. Plan of Pillsbury Co. & Am. Fed’n of Grain Millers, AFL-CIO-CLC, 268 F.3d 456, 459 (7th Cir. 2001); Doe v. Mut. of Omaha Ins. Co., 179 F.3d 557, 558 (7th Cir. 1999).  The Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have held that places of public accommodation must be physical places, but that goods and services provided by a public accommodation (which may include through websites) may fall within the ADA if they have a sufficient nexus to a physical location.  Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 257 F. Supp. 3d 1340, 1349 (S.D. Fla. 2017); Haynes v. Dunkin’ Donuts LLC, 2018 WL 3634720, at *2 (11th Cir. July 31, 2018); Weyer v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 198 F.3d 1104, 1114 (9th Cir. 2000); Earll v. eBay, Inc., 599 F. App’x 695, 696 (9th Cir. 2015); Ford v. Schering-Plough Corp., 145 F.3d 601, 614 (3d Cir. 1998); Peoples v. Discover Fin. Servs., Inc., 387 F. App’x 179, 183 (3d Cir. 2010); Parker v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 121 F.3d 1006, 1010 (6th Cir. 1997)).
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Specific accessibility barriers that blocked claimants access to the site were a lack of alt text or a text equivalent embedded into graphical images; empty links that cause confusion for users of screen-reading software; redundant links that cause navigation issues and repetition for users of screen-reading software; linked images without alt text to inform the user about the function of the link.
Part of Title I was found unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court as it pertains to states in the case of Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett as violating the sovereign immunity rights of the several states as specified by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court determined that state employees cannot sue their employer for violating ADA rules. State employees can, however, file complaints at the Department of Justice or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who can sue on their behalf.[19]
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.
While legal considerations might be your biggest worry, making your site more accessible is simply good customer service. More than 39 million Americans are blind and another 246 million have "low vision," Another one million are deaf in the U.S. Add to that people with mobility issues that prevent them from using their hands and that's a huge portion of the country's buying power.
As organizations around the world scramble to bring their sites into compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), focus on other, preexisting accessibility regulations has also intensified. The United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the most visible and complicated pieces of accessibility legislation. Let’s look at some of the ins and outs of what an ADA compliant website means today. Or, if you're interested in seeing the nitty-gritty details of your site's accessibility, request a free website audit report using the form on this page.
When accessible features are built into web pages, websites are more convenient and more available to everyone – including users with disabilities. Web designers can follow techniques developed by private and government organizations to make even complex web pages usable by everyone including people with disabilities. For most websites, implementing accessibility features is not difficult and will seldom change the layout or appearance of web pages. These techniques also make web pages more usable both by people using older computers and by people using the latest technologies (such as personal digital assistants, handheld computers, or web-enabled cellular phones).
Specific accessibility barriers that blocked claimants access to the site were a lack of alt text or a text equivalent embedded into graphical images; empty links that cause confusion for users of screen-reading software; redundant links that cause navigation issues and repetition for users of screen-reading software; linked images without alt text to inform the user about the function of the link.
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) rulemaking to create new website accessibility regulations is now officially dead, as we recently blogged. The lack of clear rules will lead to more litigation and inconsistent judicially-made law.  In fact, it appears that the DOJ will not be issuing any new regulations under Title III of the ADA about any subject, according to the agency’s December 26 announcement in the Federal Register repealing all pending ADA Title III rulemakings.
The standards of website accessibility are yet to be transformed to official government regulation as we have not seen much modernization in ADA civil rights law regarding this aspect in the past years. However, people with disabilities are filing hundreds of complaints each year to vendors that have a strong online presence and provide supplemental services via websites and mobile applications that don’t comply with modern WCAG 2.1 accessibility standards.
Resolution: Braulio Thorne called for a permanent injunction against Rolex Watch for them to take all steps necessary for making its website fully accessible to visually impaired users. The claimant also sought for compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for violations of New York State Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, court costs and attorneys’ fees, all with pre- and post-judgment interest. The parties reached an ADA settlement agreement and the case was voluntarily dismissed. 

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Websites must also be completely in conformance, and cannot achieve conformance if part of a website is excluded.  Further, all the information presented by, and the functionality of, web content technologies (such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) must be supported by accessibility web content technologies.  For more information on the five requirements for WCAG 2.0 conformance, see W3C’s WCAG’s Success Criteria, which are designed to allow online content to be tested to determine whether it satisfies the requisite criteria for a conformance level.  Testing should involve a combination of automated testing and human evaluation.
Staples were to use good faith efforts to ensure that all pages of www.Staples.com would substantially comply with the priority one and two checkpoints of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0) by no later than June 30, 2009. This was before the introduction of WCAG 2.0, therefore Staples had the opportunity to choose either version 1.0 or 2.0 of WCAG after supersession. If WCAG 2.0 would be selected, according to the agreement, Staples would have to meet conformance level AA.
In June 2018, the W3C released WCAG 2.1, which caused further confusion for businesses trying to decide what standard to follow.  However, the DoJ’s September 25, 2018 statement confirmed that the important decision for businesses is not whether to comply with a certain set of guidelines, but whether a disabled person can access the company’s goods, services, and benefits through its website.
The Supreme Court decided under Title II of the ADA that mental illness is a form of disability and therefore covered under the ADA, and that unjustified institutional isolation of a person with a disability is a form of discrimination because it "...perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life." The court added, "Confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment."
Title III also has applications to existing facilities. One of the definitions of "discrimination" under Title III of the ADA is a "failure to remove" architectural barriers in existing facilities. See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv). This means that even facilities that have not been modified or altered in any way after the ADA was passed still have obligations. The standard is whether "removing barriers" (typically defined as bringing a condition into compliance with the ADAAG) is "readily achievable", defined as "...easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense".
In 2017, plaintiffs filed at least 814 federal lawsuits about allegedly inaccessible websites, including a number of putative class actions. We arrived at this number by searching for lawsuits with certain key terms and then manually reviewing the results to remove any cases that did not concern an allegedly inaccessible website.  Our numbers are conservative, as it is very likely that not every website accessibility lawsuit’s description – upon which we based our search – contained our search terms. This caveat applies to all of the data set forth below.

Due to the increase in ADA website accessibility lawsuits and negative media coverage about them, the U.S. House of Representatives, by a 225-195 vote, passed legislation in February 2018, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, that would have amended the ADA to force prospective plaintiffs to first provide written notice of noncompliance to public accommodations – such as businesses operating public websites – before filing suit.  The company would then have 60 days to come up with a plan to address the plaintiff’s concerns.   However, that bill stalled in the Senate, where 43 Senators – enough to filibuster the bill – pledged in writing to block a vote on the Act.  Therefore, it is unlikely to become law anytime soon, especially given the results of the midterm elections.


State and local governments will often post documents on their websites using Portable Document Format (PDF). But PDF documents, or those in other image based formats, are often not accessible to blind people who use screen readers and people with low vision who use text enlargement programs or different color and font settings to read computer displays.
Rite Aid to ensure that all pages of their riteaid.com website substantially complied with Level AA of WCAG 1.0 accessibility standards by December 31, 2007, and that all pages of riteaidhealthsolutions.com, which can be accessed via a link on riteaid.com, also comply with Conformance Level AA of WCAG 1.0 by February 29, 2008. This was before WCAG 1.0 was superseded by version 2.0, therefore in the case when W3C introduces WCAG 2.0 Rite Aid had the opportunity to choose between version 1.0 and 2.0 compliance.
For most people, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) conjures up pictures of physical accommodations such as wheelchair ramps near building entrances, handicapped parking spaces, and the use of braille writing on signs and placards. These measures have been tremendously valuable in helping the 56.7 million Americans with a disability function and thrive within society.
In this case, Barnett was a US Airways employee who injured his back, rendering him physically unable to perform his cargo-handling job. Invoking seniority, he transferred to a less-demanding mailroom job, but this position later became open to seniority-based bidding and was bid on by more senior employees. Barnett requested the accommodation of being allowed to stay on in the less-demanding mailroom job. US Airways denied his request, and he lost his job.
Title II prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local level, e.g., school district, municipal, city, or county, and at state level. Public entities must comply with Title II regulations by the U.S. Department of Justice. These regulations cover access to all programs and services offered by the entity. Access includes physical access described in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and programmatic access that might be obstructed by discriminatory policies or procedures of the entity.
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