Private Sector Websites and the ADA
Mark Leeds sent me the following message:
This is an awfully important issue, and the City Bar's report certainly deserves careful consideration. My sense has always been that it's much easier to justify reading ADA Title III to cover the websites of brick-and-mortar goods and services providers than to cover the websites of businesses that sell exclusively over the internet.
Private sector websites can be public accommodations under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) -- and thus required to be accessible to people with disabilities -- regardless of whether such sites are associated with a "bricks and mortar" facility. This is the finding of a report just issued by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (City Bar), available at http://www.nycbar.org/pdf/report/Website_Accessibility.pdf
While governmental services and programs available on the Internet clearly are required to be accessible under Title II of the ADA, some courts and commentators have taken divergent views concerning private sector sites. In a painstaking analysis of the language of Title III and of regulations written pursuant to Title III, as well as of evidence in the ADA's legislative history and of fundamental rules of legislative interpretation, the City Bar demonstrates how the law requires private sector websites to be accessible. Citing statutory and regulatory language, the report points out that the ADA's list of categories of public accommodations is not a list of "places" and that a "place" can be the website itself. The report points to the standards long accepted for the public sector as those to be followed by the private sector as well.
It is hoped this report will bring clarity to an area in which misquotation and misapplication of statutory and regulatory language have led to confusion among some courts and commentators. Website accessibility is not difficult to achieve and is in the interests of all concerned, including those putting website onto the Internet.
Access to the Internet for people with disabilities is is vital to our integration into the mainstream of society not only in the United States. Like the Internet itself, the issue is global. It will be the focus of this year's United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/iddp2006.htm
Please read and disseminate the City Bar's report: