Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ramasastry on the ADA and Website Access

See this column on Findlaw. It begins:

ust last month, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel -- of the San Francisco-based U.S. District Court for the North District of California - ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to some commercial websites. The holding was the first of its kind.

Unless Judge Patel's ruling is reversed on appeal, its upshot will likely be that many retail websites - in particular, those intrinsically linked to companies' brick-and-mortar operations - will have to start complying with the ADA.

However, because Judge Patel's decision did not reach web-only retailers, it may be necessary for Congress to revisit the ADA if it wishes to ensure that all web retailers make their sites accessible.

Given that there are some very significant web-only sellers - eBay and come immediately to mind - Congress should seriously consider this option. (Some groups have lobbied Congress to modify the ADA to explicitly cover the Internet, but the law has yet to be changed.)

FWIW, I think Judge Patel's basic holding -- that the ADA's public accommodations title applies, at the least, to the websites operated by retailers that run places of public accommodation -- is clearly correct as a matter of statutory interpretation, and it seems unlikely to me that it will be overturned on appeal.


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