Your website is often the first thing your customers see when they’re searching for a business or service on the web. As the face of your organization, your website needs to be attractive and functional, offering the latest features that users now expect. To plan and design a site that both reflects your company’s mission and values and appeals to customers takes a professional web designer. While free online services can help people set up websites, web designers can provide a unique solution made specifically to meet customers’ personal or business needs.
The General Services Administration hosts an online course for web developers interested in accessible web design. This program was developed in conjunction with the Access Board, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education and provides an interactive demonstration of how to build accessible web pages. This course is available at www.section508.gov, which also provides information about the Federal government’s initiative to make its electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.
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1:15 PM, Nov. 12, 2018: This story incorrectly says that nearly 5,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in federal court for alleged website violations in the first six months of 2018 and that 10,000 were projected to be filed by year’s end, up 30% from 2017. Those numbers actually refer to all ADA lawsuits for disability discrimination involving public accommodation filed in that period. Of those suits, lawsuits alleging website accessibility violations totaled 1,053 in the first six months, a number that is projected to rise to 2,000 by year’s end, up 90% from 2017.

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.
"The United States demands that H&R Block is fined a penalty to 'vindicate the public interest' and to award money to the individuals who sued the company. The ADA prohibits discrimination of disability by public accommodations in the 'full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations,'" the Justice Department said in joining the lawsuit.
Ensuring your website is ADA compliant takes skill and know-how. Even with drag-and-drop and state-of-the-art web builders, knowing how to put together content, add alt-tags and compliant contrasting colors just to name a few thing, it takes someone familiar with coding, UI/UX techniques and the best practices advised by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) to ensure that your site meets at minimum the A Level of Conformance. Here is the W3C’s complete and exhaustive list of technical conformance guidelines.
Access Now v. Southwest Airlines was a case where the District Court decided that the website of Southwest Airlines was not in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, because the ADA is concerned with things with a physical existence and thus cannot be applied to cyberspace. Judge Patricia A. Seitz found that the "virtual ticket counter" of the website was a virtual construct, and hence not a "public place of accommodation." As such, "To expand the ADA to cover 'virtual' spaces would be to create new rights without well-defined standards."[76]

You may have installed a ramp, increased the width of your door frames, or made other accommodations to ensure that your physical premises are accessible to all. The requirement for equal access used to only apply to physical locations and storefronts, but now the government is actively ensuring that the requirements for ADA accessibility include online properties such as websites and mobile apps.

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Through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), our nation committed itself to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division is proud to play a critical role in enforcing the ADA, working towards a future in which all the doors are open to equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, integration and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities.
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 landscape of disabled access litigation related to online services has significantly changed and expanded over the past decade. Initially, the internet was an area of little concern as courts uniformly held that the ADA applied to "brick and mortar" facilities, not to cyberspace. This has changed and online accessibility is presently, and will continue to be, an area of significant investigation and litigation.
The number of New York federal website accessibility lawsuits is staggering, brought primarily by fifteen law firms/lawyers.  The lawyers appearing most frequently on filings are Joseph Mizrahi, Jonathan Shalom, Doug Lipsky, C.K. Lee, Bradley Marks, and Jeffrey Gottlieb.  We saw a surge in these cases after New York federal judges allowed website accessibility cases to proceed to discovery in lawsuits against Blick Art and Five Guys.  The 2018 New York website accessibility filing statistic brought New York into a close second to California in the total number of ADA Title III lawsuits (not just website accessibility cases) filed in federal court.
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.
In 2001, for men of all working ages and women under 40, Current Population Survey data showed a sharp drop in the employment of disabled workers, leading at least two economists to attribute the cause to the Act.[52] By contrast, a study in 2003 found that while the Act may have led to short term reactions by employers, in the long term, there were either positive or neutral consequences for wages and employment.[53] In 2005 the rate of employment among disabled people increased to 45% of the population of disabled people.[54]
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[2] Many states – including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado,  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming – have also passed legislation or published guidance governing website compliance.  Of those states, many have chosen to adopt WCAG standards.  This post will focus on updates in federal law.

How much their services cost. One of the most important things to determine is how much you’re willing to spend on a website, and then take note of how much each agency charges. The sentiment holds true that you typically get what you pay for — if a web design agency is charging dirt cheap for a design, you probably won’t be happy with the results. There is definitely room to have a budget, but keep in mind what you’ll generally need to pay for a high-quality website.
Very often, a single Plaintiff’s attorney and sometimes the same disabled individual will file dozens or more lawsuits against many different companies alleging technical violations of Title III, and seek injunctive relief (e.g., for the company to make its website ADA accessible) and attorneys’ fees that are authorized by the statute.  These lawsuits have targeted businesses across a number of industries, including retail stores, restaurants, health care providers, and e-commerce companies.  This glut of litigation over alleged technical ADA website compliance violations has frustrated the courts,[1] and, thus far, neither Congress nor the Department of Justice (the “DoJ”), the primary federal government agency responsible for enforcing the ADA, have adequately clarified the scope of the ADA in terms of website accessibility compliance for private companies.
 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)).

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.


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.
[2] Many states – including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado,  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming – have also passed legislation or published guidance governing website compliance.  Of those states, many have chosen to adopt WCAG standards.  This post will focus on updates in federal law.
The ADA statute identifies who is a person with a disability, who has obligations under the ADA, general non-discrimination requirements and other basic obligations. It delegates fleshing out those obligations to federal agencies. The agencies issue regulations and design standards. The regulations have the details on the rights of people with disabilities and responsibilities of employers, state and local governments, transportation providers, businesses and non-profit organizations. The design standards specify how many entrances need to be accessible, how many toilet rooms and the design for those elements.  To know what the ADA requires, you need to read the law, regulations and design standards.  
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.
Currently, while storefronts, public areas and public bathrooms must legally take measures to accommodate everyone with disabilities, online ADA compliance is not mandatory on anything but government-managed websites. Instead, these rules act as guidelines to ensure that disabled people have the same ability to access and read/view your website as everyone else.
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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The lawsuit against Winn-Dixie was on the basis that those with visual impairments couldn’t access the website using their screen reading software. The individual that set the lawsuit in motion claimed that the website didn’t meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards. According to the article, Winn-Dixie set aside $250,000 to update their website to meet those standards.
Ultimately, the DoJ’s letter has placed the burden back on Congress to legislate regarding ADA website accessibility.  However, it is unlikely that it will take any action any time soon.  While the DOJ’s letter is helpful for businesses, it will not stop these ADA website accessibility lawsuits.  Therefore, businesses should take proactive steps toward making their websites accessible.  Employers must also remember that their failure to make online job applications accessible to blind or disabled job applicants may subject them to liability under Title I of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination in hiring decisions, and which carries with it additional remedies such as compensatory damages (to pay a plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination and compensate him/her for any emotional harm suffered), and punitive damages.
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