Department of Justice Rules Regarding ADA Web AccessibilityFines and Settlements
The Department of Justice has published guidance on web accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlining how state and local governments (entities covered by ADA Title II) and businesses open to the public (entities covered by ADA Title III) can make sure their websites are accessible to people with disabilities in line with the ADA's requirements.
Upon a cursory review of the DOJ guidance for Title III (business) we did not find a hard and fast line to determine what websites must meet ADA requirements. Title III guidance for “businesses that are open to the public” appears to be broad and could be all encompassing to any business that has a website accessible by the public.
Upon conversation with a representative of a national firm that provides assistance in DOJ ADA website compliance we learned that if a website can be publicly accessed, it falls under the Justice rules. This appears to be supported by the DOJ website which states “People with disabilities deserve to have an equal opportunity to access the services, goods and programs provided by government and businesses, including when offered or communicated through websites." Offered OR communicated…that seems to further broaden the websites requiring compliance.
A number of large fines have already been imposed by the DOJ against public websites that did not meet their requirements. While there have been some big names hit with settlements with the DOJ (major grocery, pizza and pharmacy chains, as well as professional sports teams) there have also been fines imposed against what appears to be Title III companies with websites that allow activities such as sending of inquiries, scheduling, viewing of videos, credit card payments, description of goods and services, etc.
The DOJ website states “Even though businesses and state and local governments have flexibility in how they comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication, they still must ensure that the programs, services, and goods that they provide to the public—including those provided online—are accessible to people with disabilities.”
Their website additionally stated that the Department has consistently taken the position that the ADA's requirements apply to all the goods, services, privileges, or activities offered by public including those offered on the web.
The DOJ listed a number of barriers individuals with disabilities may encounter when accessing a website. Potential remedies were referenced but solutions to the fix were left to the website owner to initiate compliance. Issues such as color used in the website, the ability for the website to accommodate software that reads text out loud, inclusion of captions on videos, eliminating mouse only website navigation were but a few of the items addressed by the DOJ.
Should a website offer the ability to register for an event, request information, describe goods and services, make a payment with a credit card, provide for the ability to send an email, it appears DOJ ADA guideline compliance is required.
To learn more about this issue, please visit www.ADA.gov. or Justice.gov. Should you wish to speak with the website compliance experts utilized in gaining further clarity regarding this issue, please let us know.