ADA Website Litigation Likely to Increase
There has been considerable confusion amongst business owners as to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to websites. The ADA requires, among other things, that places of "public accommodation" remove barriers to access for people with disabilities. This law has long been understood to apply to brick-and-mortar establishments, such as restaurants, retail stores, and hotels, but recent court decisions have held that the ADA applies to the websites and mobile applications of businesses offering goods and services online.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), which is responsible for establishing regulations pursuant to the ADA, has thus far failed to issue any guidance, regulations, or technical standards for online platforms, resulting in uncertainty for many business owners. Many have looked to the case of Robles v. Domino's Pizza, LLC for potential guidance. Robles was filed by a blind man who claimed that he could not access the Domino's website and mobile app with his screen-reading software. The District Court dismissed the case on the basis that, although the ADA applied to the website and app, the DOJ's failure to provide guidance as to the ADA's application to websites violated Domino's due process rights. The Ninth Circuit reversed this ruling, and on October 7, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition by Domino's Pizza asking the Court to review the Ninth Circuit's decision.
The Supreme Court's refusal to review the Ninth Circuit decision maintains the uncertainty in what will no doubt be an expanding field of litigation. Business owners should expect to see an increase in ADA website litigation, and should take steps to ensure that their websites and mobile apps are accessible to disabled users.