Many people with disabilities use “assistive technology” to enable them to use computers and access the Internet. Blind people who cannot see computer monitors may use screen readers – devices that speak the text that would normally appear on a monitor. People who have difficulty using a computer mouse can use voice recognition software to control their computers with verbal commands. People with other types of disabilities may use still other kinds of assistive technology. New and innovative assistive technologies are being introduced every day.
Since enforcement of the act began in July 1992, it has quickly become a major component of employment law. The ADA allows private plaintiffs to receive only injunctive relief (a court order requiring the public accommodation to remedy violations of the accessibility regulations) and attorneys' fees, and does not provide monetary rewards to private plaintiffs who sue non-compliant businesses. Unless a state law, such as the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, provides for monetary damages to private plaintiffs, persons with disabilities do not obtain direct financial benefits from suing businesses that violate the ADA.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or ADA (42 U.S.C. § 12101) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. In addition, unlike the Civil Rights Act, the ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.
Ensure that in-house staff and contractors responsible for webpage and content development are properly trained. Distribute the Department of Justice technical assistance document “Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities” to these in-house staff and contractors on an annual basis as a reminder. This technical assistance document is available on the ADA Home Page at www.ada.gov.
As of 2015 the ADA had improved access to public services, the built environment (e.g., crosswalks with curb cuts and accessible pedestrian signals), understanding of the abilities of people with disabilities, established a right to equal access to public services and has demonstrated the contributions which people with disabilities can make to the economy. Disparities have remained in employment, earned income, Internet access, transportation, housing, and educational attainment and the disabled remain at a disadvantage with respect to health and health care.
Winn Dixie appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of appeals, which held oral argument on October 4, 2018. Winn Dixie argued that: (1) websites are not places of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA; (2) the WCAG are not law and the trial court’s adoption of those guidelines violated due process; and (3) Winn Dixie is in compliance with the ADA because Gil had not been deprived of the full benefit of and equal access to the services and goods in Winn Dixie’s stores. The Eleventh Circuit will likely issue its opinion in the first months of 2019, which can potentially, and significantly impact the landscape of website accessibility cases within the Eleventh Circuit (Alabama, Florida, and Georgia) by clarifying or definitively adopting a standard (e.g., the WCAG) under which courts will analyze whether a company’s website is ADA accessible.
Title IV of the ADA amended the landmark Communications Act of 1934 primarily by adding section 47 U.S.C. § 225. This section requires that all telecommunications companies in the U.S. take steps to ensure functionally equivalent services for consumers with disabilities, notably those who are deaf or hard of hearing and those with speech impairments. When Title IV took effect in the early 1990s, it led to the installation of public teletypewriter (TTY) machines and other TDD (telecommunications devices for the deaf). Title IV also led to the creation, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, of what was then called dual-party relay services and now are known as Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), such as STS relay. Today, many TRS-mediated calls are made over the Internet by consumers who use broadband connections. Some are Video Relay Service (VRS) calls, while others are text calls. In either variation, communication assistants translate between the signed or typed words of a consumer and the spoken words of others. In 2006, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), VRS calls averaged two million minutes a month.
In short, the ADA currently offers compliance suggestions for sites, but there aren’t currently any standards that you are obligated to follow. The proposed law would make sure that websites follow WCAG 2.0 guidelines, which were designed and set up by the World Wide Web Consortium, an international group aimed at creating global website standards.
Decided by the US Supreme Court in 2002, this case  held that even requests for accommodation that might seem reasonable on their face, e.g., a transfer to a different position, can be rendered unreasonable because it would require a violation of the company's seniority system. While the court held that, in general, a violation of a seniority system renders an otherwise reasonable accommodation unreasonable, a plaintiff can present evidence that, despite the seniority system, the accommodation is reasonable in the specific case at hand, e.g., the plaintiff could offer evidence that the seniority system is so often disregarded that another exception wouldn't make a difference.
Explain to the plaintiff that you’ve reviewed the grievance and talked with a lawyer. It may be best to explain the ADA guidelines, and that proposed laws are not currently laws, nor are there current penalties for violating these proposed laws. Knowing that you’ve gone to this trouble can sometimes scare away anyone attempting to file a lawsuit. It’s best to let your attorney contact the plaintiff when making statements.
On September 25, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) into law. The amendment broadened the definition of "disability", thereby extending the ADA's protections to a greater number of people. The ADAAA also added to the ADA examples of "major life activities" including, but not limited to, "caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working" as well as the operation of several specified major bodily functions. The act overturned a 1999 US Supreme Court case that held that an employee was not disabled if the impairment could be corrected by mitigating measures; it specifically provides that such impairment must be determined without considering such ameliorative measures. It also overturned the court restriction that an impairment which substantially limits one major life activity must also limit others to be considered a disability. In 2008, the United States House Committee on Education and Labor stated that the amendment "makes it absolutely clear that the ADA is intended to provide broad coverage to protect anyone who faces discrimination on the basis of disability." Thus the ADAAA led to broader coverage of impaired employees.
ADA website compliance is about making sure that everyone has equal access to all the elements on your website and apps. That may mean you need to provide alternatives for some of the functions and content on your site in order to meet ADA website compliance standards. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the accommodations that need to be incorporated into your website to meet the ADA guidelines:
As we had predicted, the number of website accessibility lawsuits (i.e. lawsuits alleging that plaintiffs with a disability could not use websites because they were not coded to work with assistive technologies like screen readers, or otherwise accessible to them) filed in federal court under Title III of the ADA exploded in 2018 to at least 2258 – increasing by 177% from 814 such lawsuits in 2017.
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.
"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.
The Department first articulated its interpretation that the ADA applies to public accommodations’ websites over 20 years ago. This interpretation is consistent with the ADA’s title III requirement that the goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally accessible to people with disabilities. Additionally, the Department has consistently taken the position that the absence of a specific regulation does not serve as a basis for noncompliance with a statute’s requirements. Absent the adopting of specific technical requirements for websites through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication. Accordingly, noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA…. Given Congress’ ability to provide greater clarity through the legislative process, we look forward to working with you to continue these efforts.
Technology is changing, and many website designers are using creative and innovative ways to present web-based materials. These changes may involve new and different access problems and solutions for people with disabilities. This Chapter discusses just a few of the most common ways in which websites can pose barriers to access for people with disabilities. By using the resources listed at the end of this Chapter, you can learn to identify and address other barriers.
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.
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.
The DOJ’s letter suggests that it does not view compliance with every aspect of WCAG 2.0, Level AA as required under the ADA. Instead, “public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication.” Ideally for businesses, courts, especially those fed up with congestion on their dockets due to these ADA website accessibility cases, will use the DoJ’s guidance as a basis to dismiss website accessibility lawsuits against companies who have made an earnest effort toward being accessible for disabled persons, even if their efforts have not been perfect. The DoJ’s letter offers businesses some flexibility in crafting ways to be accessible. In addition to working toward website compliance, some businesses have also chosen to demonstrate accessibility by providing a 24/7 phone number to provide the kind of information otherwise available on their websites.
Web designers often design in such a way that does not allow the user to adjust font size or color. While they may be protecting their brand, they are also inhibiting some users. Many visually impaired need to use high contrast color settings or very large fonts to read a website. Don't design your website in a way that makes it impossible for them to do this.
According to the DOJ, “Being unable to access websites puts individuals with disabilities at a great disadvantage in today’s society.” With these words in mind, the DOJ has rapidly adopted the role of web accessibility enforcer. A failure to make digital content, including websites, accessible to all individuals regardless of their emotional, physical, or mental disabilities, can result in hefty fines and class action lawsuits. In short, the DOJ is dedicated to making sure that individuals with disabilities have the same equal access to the benefits that are available online. Creating equal access is only possible if organizations a) understand the requirements of web accessibility, b) know that web accessibility is an obligation under the ADA, and c) make web accessibility a priority. The value that awaits when organizations adhere to digital accessibility laws can be measured in more than dollars and cents.