As we discussed in a previous post , the courts, the Congress, and the Department of Justice (the “DoJ”) continue to grapple with the scope of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) as it relates to the accessibility of private businesses’ websites for disabled people. A decision by one state trial court in California seems to adopt a more strict reading of the definition of “public accommodation” than previous cases in California and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes the federal courts in California) on the subject, which further demonstrates the difficulty that many courts, including this one, are having with these ADA website accessibility cases.
The Scope of the Issue
The Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) has been the source of a tremendous amount of litigation since President George H.W. Bush signed it into law in 1990. Over the past few years, Plaintiffs’ counsel have developed a cottage industry of sorts by filing thousands of lawsuits alleging that company websites are not accessible to the blind or visually impaired, in violation of Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in “places of public accommodation.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). While ADA lawsuits previously focused on physical access barriers to businesses, these new lawsuits allege that: (1) private company websites qualify as places of public accommodation; and, (2) websites with access barriers (e.g., websites without compatible screen-reading software) deny plaintiffs the right of equal access. Plaintiffs have also challenged the accessibility of mobile applications and online job application interfaces.