On this day in 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the “Americans with Disabilities Act” (Public Law 101-336) and it is one of his enduring legacies. The bill had been introduced by Senator Tom Harkin who delivered his floor speech on the bill in sign language so that his deaf brother would understand.
That year was also the year of the first website and web browser, so few could foresee how this new law would apply to this new technological frontier. By 2003, the Justice Department concluded that the ADA extends to websites of entities that provide goods or services that fall within the 12 ADA categories of “public accommodations”. It began a process of development regulations, but the Trump administration terminated this effort in late 2017.
In this decade, however, there has been an explosion of lawsuits alleging that websites are not ADA compliant. An analysis by Seyfarth Shaw reports the following growth in federal lawsuits:
*2020 numbers are a projection based on totals through March.
A leading case in this area is Robles v Domino’s Pizza, LLC 913 F.3d 898, 905–906 (9th Cir. 2019), in which the Ninth Circuit rejected Domino’s argument that the ADA was limited only to physical spaces.
including websites connected to a physical place of public accommodation is not only consistent with the plain language of Title III, but it is also consistent with Congress’s mandate that the ADA keep pace with changing technology to effectuate the intent of the statute.
The Supreme Court refused to hear Domino’s appeal. Currently, this is the prevailing standard in the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 11th Circuit Courts of Appeals.
In 2020, California’s Attorney General included accessibility in the proposed final regulations for the California Consumer Privacy, requiring that privacy notices
Be reasonably accessible to consumers with disabilities. For notices provided
online, the business shall follow generally recognized industry standards, such as
the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.1 of June 5, 2018, from the
World Wide Web Consortium, incorporated herein by reference. In other
contexts, the business shall provide information on how a consumer with a
disability may access the notice in an alternative format.
Information on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is available here.
In addition, ADA.gov provides a checklist for website accessibility.