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Employment Blog

Is Your Website Discriminatory?

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on March 22, 2016
Filed under Employment

Yes, there have now been a number of lawsuits filed over whether or not a company’s website is accessible under the Americans With Disabilities Act.  In many of these cases, the Department of Justice has joined in the lawsuit seeking to enforce Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Companies are now considering whether or not they have a properly accessible website that does not discriminate against individuals with a disability.

Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits public accommodations from discriminating against an individual on the basis of a disability.  A number of businesses are considered public accommodations such as businesses that are engaged in retail sales or providing of professional services.  Hotels and motels are another type of public accommodation as well as educational institutions and entertainment and exhibition facilities.  Others may be considered public accommodations but there has not been a lot of litigation over that definition.

If a business is considered a public accommodations business, it is obligated to insure that its place of business allows for the “full and equal enjoyment” of the goods and services offered by the public accommodation for individuals who suffer from a disability.  This is being interpreted that businesses that are considered public accommodation businesses must make sure their website promoting their business is equally accessible to anyone accessing the website whether or not the individual has a disability.

It is also not clear what is meant by having a website that is accessible.  Some suggestions include the use of closed captioning and other types of communication assistance when the website shows video or audio components as part of its communication to the public.  Other examples include making sure the website is fully functional for an individual accessing the website by a keyboard so that it operates on a timeline that allows sufficient time for someone to read and use the content of the website.  It is also suggested that the content on the website must be easily understood and readable for individuals who may suffer some type of disabling condition.

One of the main issues to be litigated is whether a website is considered a place of the public accommodation business and thereby subject to the ADA requirements.  The Department of Justice will not be issuing regulations on this topic until 2018 so in the meantime, allegations are made and lawsuits are filed challenging the accessibility of a company’s website.