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.

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Any business that is considered a “place of public accommodation” is required to provide equal access to services under the nondiscrimination requirements of Title III of ADA. When you look at the guidelines closely, this includes hotels, entertainment venues, legal and accounting firms, retail stores, and virtually every business that is not a private club, including businesses that exist solely on the web.


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.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first passed in 1990. Twenty years later, the US Department of Justice released an update called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These standards cover the design of physical spaces and have been interpreted to include web locations as well, so it can be difficult for the would-be accessible website designer to use them.
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.
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