Landmark Court Decision Could Affect Businesses Nationwide

David Savage of Apple News reports that “In a potentially far-reaching move, the [Supreme Court] justices turned down an appeal from Domino’s and let stand a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling holding that the Americans With Disabilities Act protects access not just to restaurants and stores but also to the websites and apps of those businesses.” (Read More)

Many observers note that this landmark case could set a precedent for judges nationwide and create a “tsunami of litigation” targeting any business that falls under the category of public accommodation. The case, however, could be farther reaching than that. According to Business News Daily, Title I and Title III businesses are covered under the ADA. As this new ruling stands, it means websites and apps belonging to businesses that fall under this categorization are also required to be accessible.

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Is Your Business or Organization at Risk?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for those with recognized disabilities if they are ambit of the law. Brett Snider, Esq. of FindLaw, explains that Title I and Title III of the ADA are the ones “most applicable to small private business owners.” According to Snider:

Title I of the ADA covers areas of private employment and requires eligible businesses to provide employees with equal opportunity to enjoy privileges of employment. It also prohibits discrimination based on disability.

Title III of the ADA focuses on private and public entities that are considered “public accommodations,” and requires that businesses not discriminate against customers based on disability, including providing reasonable access. (FindLaw)

Essentially, under Title I of the ADA, any business with 15 or more employees that operate over 20 weeks of the year are covered by the ADA along with businesses that fall under Title III, those categorized as “public accommodation”. “Public accommodation” includes:

  • Inns, hotels, and motels
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Bakeries and grocery stores
  • Hardware stores or any sales/retail outlet
  • Banks
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Accountants and lawyers’ offices
  • Health care providers’ offices
  • Public transportation
  • Recreation venues
  • Schools
  • Social service centers
  • Gyms

The US 9th Circuit Court decision has determined that websites and apps for businesses are covered by the ADA which strongly suggests that businesses falling under Title I or Title III must make a reasonable effort to ensure their online presence is accessible.

How Do I Know if My Website or App is Compliant?

Currently, there are no clear website or app accessibility guidelines, but this doesn’t protect businesses from litigation. Businesses falling under Title I or Title III “must provide an accessible website that accommodates users with disabilities.” (Business News Daily) While there are no set standards, there are many tools that can scan your website for compliance issues and offer suggestions on how to improve your site to make it accessible to the blind, deaf, and those who must navigate by voice, screen readers, or other assistive technologies. While the changes may not be easy and they may take time to accomplish, there are penalties associated with the ADA, including lawsuits, financial penalties, and loss of brand reputation. (Business News Daily)

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What Are My Next Steps?

If your business or organization falls under Title I or Title III of the ADA it’s a good idea to work with an experienced agency to evaluate your website or app and create an action plan to make the changes necessary for accessibility. Ocreative has developed a thorough vetting system for websites and we can work together to update your site and show, that in good faith, your business is taking the right steps to meet accessibility requirements for all. ADA compliance is page dependent, so as new pages are added to your site, it will be important to reverify compliance. If you are interested in learning more about the tiers of website compliance or to see what changes you may need to make, fill out the form below:

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