There was applause all around when then-President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) into law in 1990. Designed to level the playing field for the physically handicapped or impaired needing accessibility, the law was lauded as a great achievement throughout California.
Unfortunately, three decades later, companies are getting slammed with ADA suits. Plaintiffs are claiming no or lack of adherence to the ADA. That includes state discrimination laws like the Unruh Act.
While ADA lawsuits mostly involve physical barriers, there has been significant growth in ADA website suits claiming (i) private company websites are not accommodating the visually impaired, (ii) websites are not providing compatible screen-reading software, (iii) lack of equal access to sites and (iv) online job application platforms and mobile app accessibility suffer from inequity.
What lies at the route of the problem is when the president signed ADA into effect, no one imagined how critical the internet would become. The law initially attacked discrimination in the workplace and public spaces.
The law regulates standard requirements to ensure disabled persons can enter and exit buildings, use bathrooms and transportation, and promote equal employment opportunities.
What the ADA didn’t and doesn’t do is offer guidance for mobile apps or internet access.
What many of the ADA website lawsuits do is challenge Title III of the ADA. This section prohibits any disability discrimination in places of public accommodation. The guideline focused on physical barriers. But these new lawsuits argue the internet is a place of public accommodation.
Various courts reviewing ADA website lawsuits reach different conclusions. The lack of clarity is problematic. Businesses with an online presence are in a quagmire. They need sound guidance for managing ADA while avoiding hefty funds into revitalizing their websites.
Hopefully, businesses will get defined guidelines. Otherwise, ABA website lawsuits will keep coming.