ADA compliant websites - Part 2

March 16, 2017

 As we continue to hear more about ADA compliant websites - we are constantly sharing the latest with our clients. Of all the the sites we have found and conversations we have had - the best source of a balanced viewpoint is via the AmericanBar.org. Here is a quick summary - for more visit: The Internet and Title III of the ADA.

You represent a business that is entirely based on the Internet, though it does have a corporate headquarters where people work. The Internet site of the company that you represent is not accessible to persons with disabilities. A person with a disability wants to take advantage of your Internet site’s products and services, but cannot do so because of the lack of accessibility. Is your client subject to a lawsuit under Title III of the ADA?

The case law breaks down into four views. First, there is the view that the Internet is simply not a place of public accommodation as set forth in Access Now, Inc. v. Southwest Airlines, Co, 227 F. Supp. 2d 1312 (S.D. Fla. 2002). In Access Now, the Southern District of Florida held that Southwest Airlines did not have to make its Internet site accessible to persons with disabilities because Title III of the ADA restricted its coverage to physical places……”

Second, an opposite view, stating the Internet is a place of public accommodation, was stated by Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit in Doe v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company, 179 F.3d 557 (Seventh Circuit 1999). While admittedly the statement that follows may well not have been critical to the disposition of Doe because accessing the Internet was not before the court at all, nevertheless it is noteworthy because of how convinced Justice Posner seems to be of his view of the scope of Title III of the ADA’s nondiscrimination provision….

Third, there is a middle ground mentioned by the 9th Circuit in Weyer v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 198 F.3d 1104 (9th Cir. 2000). That view essentially relies on a two-step approach: 1) Determine if a place of public accommodation as defined by Title III of the ADA is somehow involved; and 2) If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, then assess whether a nexus exists between the event complained of and the place of public accommodation. However, even Weyer did not deal with the Internet at all. Thus, Weyer left open how the test might apply to the Internet.

Finally, there is now a fourth view of how the ADA works with respect to the Internet. That view is represented by National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix, Inc., 869 F. Supp. 2d 196 (D Mass. 2012). Where a deaf person, the National Association of the Deaf, and the National Association of the Deaf’s Massachusetts affiliate brought suit against Netflix alleging that its streaming, which was not close captioned, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The defendant responded that the Americans with Disabilities Act was not violated and that the Americans with Disabilities Act was preempted by the 21st-Century Communication Video Accessibility Act of 2010. 
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Needless to say its a little more complicated than first thought. The real take away is that ADA compliance via website is not going to go away. And it’s probably better to meet the standard than get involved in any lawsuit. DevHub is ready to help.

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