The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was a landmark civil rights law recognizing the rights of people with physical or mental impairments to fully participate in American life, free from discrimination in employment and able to access places and services open to the public. The law has been a great success in many areas, but as more and more commerce, communications, employment, entertainment and other aspects of daily life move online, persons with disabilities face more and more barriers due to inaccessible websites.
The ADA requires businesses to be accessible to persons with disabilities, and in many cases this applies to their websites as well. The Lambrou Law Firm is committed to helping persons with disabilities remove barriers under the law and is experienced in bringing lawsuits against noncompliant businesses to force them to comply with the law. Learn more about ADA website accessibility laws and standards below, or contact the Lambrou Law Firm for immediate assistance.
Title III of the ADA covers Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities. This is the section of the law that requires businesses open to the public to be accessible to persons with disabilities. If a company’s website offers products or services, or if the website is connected with the business, then in all likelihood the website will need to be accessible as well. Even a business that is online only and has no physical location may still be a “public accommodation” within the meaning of Title III, with the requirement that the website be accessible.
Website accessibility standards are governed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Through its Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI), the W3C has published Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG guidelines are the standards which company websites must meet.
Just as website technology and the Internet experience are constantly evolving, WCAG guidelines are constantly evolving as well. The latest standards are WCAG 2.0, although 2.1 is on the way and is scheduled to arrive in 2018. The Lambrou Law Firm is of such changes and stays on top of the latest developments.
The WCAG 2.0 guidelines have different levels of accessibility, labeled A, AA and AAA. AAA is the highest level of accessibility under the guidelines. The AA standard is the standard required of all federal government agency websites, and it is also the standard the Department of Justice has been requiring in the many enforcement actions and settlement agreements it has brought against various inaccessible websites. Most of the courts which have addressed this issue have also agreed that WCAG 2.0 AA is an appropriate standard to require Title III public accommodations to adhere to when maintaining a website.
A primary means to force compliance with the law is for private citizens to bring civil actions against companies whose websites fail to meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards. Courts can enter injunctions that require companies to make their websites readily accessible and usable. The Attorney General and Department of Justice may also intervene and pursue the case on your behalf. The law allows for money damages to be awarded for the harm done to you, and companies can be hit with civil penalties over $90,000 for the first violation or more than $180,000 for each subsequent violation. The court can also order the losing party to pay the attorney’s fees of the prevailing party.
If you have been frustrated or harmed by the lack of ability to access a company’s goods and services over its website, contact a website accessibility lawyer at the Lambrou Law Firm for a free consultation to explore your options. Call 212-285-2100, or contact us online.