DOJ Says Web Accessibility Under the ADA Open to Interpretation

After 103 House members of both parties beseeched the Department of Justice (DOJ) to clarify website accessibility rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the nation’s top law enforcement agency essentially took a pass.

justice-responds-to-website-accessibility-rulesThe letter from House members urged the department to “provide guidance and clarity with regard to website accessibility under the … ADA” for those in the public accommodations sector. The response came back, in part:

Absent the adoption of specific technical requirements for websites through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication. Accordingly, noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA.

The response also noted that, in 2010, a DOJ Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) indicated that an alternative to accessible websites would be a 24/7-staffed hotline. In other words, a website can be accessible to the blind without adhering to the privately developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or 2.1.

In the part of the letter referencing a flood of lawsuits challenging companies’ website accessibility, the DOJ reply basically threw the ball back into the politicians’ lap: “Given Congress’ ability to provide greater clarity through the legislative process, we look forward to working with you to continue these efforts.”

The Justice Department response also acknowledged:

The Department first articulated its interpretation that the ADA applies to public accommodations’ websites over 20 years ago. This interpretation is consistent with the ADA’s title III requirement that the goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally accessible to people with disabilities.

 

 


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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