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Bill Introduced In Congress to Create Website Accessibility Standards

Legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives to try to alleviate the lack of clarity concerning how companies are supposed to make websites accessible to vision impaired individuals. There is currently no law or regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) directly addressing technical or legal standards for website accessibility.

The Online Accessibility Act, introduced on October 2, 2020, intends to remedy many of these issues and concerns by creating a new Title VI for the ADA devoted entirely to consumer facing websites and mobile applications. The Act requires “substantial” compliance with WCAG 2.0 A, AA, an exhaustion of administrative remedies with the Department of Justice, and that plaintiffs plead “with particularity each element of the plaintiff’s claim, including the specific barriers to access.”

Each of these additional components is important as they narrow the claims that can be brought by plaintiffs, create a framework and standard by which website accessibility claims are evaluated, and most importantly, put the onus on the plaintiff to identify the specific links and precise areas of the web page that are inaccessible. This in turn makes it easier for a website to be remediated and makes it easier for the court to determine if there is a violation.

While the legislation, as currently written, does not define how “substantial compliance” is interpreted, at a minimum it will not require complete compliance, and may also consider the crux of accessibility laws (whether the plaintiff has meaningful access to the website). This is important because meaningful access considers whether the non-compliant pieces of a consumer-facing website actually affect a consumer or plaintiff’s ability to use the website – further minimizing the number of frivolous and predatory lawsuits filed regarding website accessibility violations.

While the Online Accessibility Act is not law yet, it is taking necessary steps towards refining website accessibility laws by attempting to tailor the requirements of such laws to the actual needs of vision impaired users of websites, while simultaneously tempering serial plaintiffs and their attorneys from filing a glut of lawsuits with vague allegations without the U.S. Department of Justice oversight.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2023National Law Review, Volume X, Number 315

About this Author

Joseph J. Lynett, Jackson Lewis, educational institutions lawyer, disabled students litigation attorney

Joseph J. Lynett is a Principal in the White Plains, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. His practice focuses on assisting employers, businesses, and educational institutions in meeting the legal and practical challenges posed by federal and state laws protecting injured and ill employees, as well as disabled students and members of the public.

Mr. Lynett defends employers, business and educational institutions in federal and state courts and before administrative agencies, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity...

Eve Tilley-Coulson Employment Attorney Jackson Lewis

Eve Tilley-Coulson is an Associate in the Los Angeles, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on representing employers in workplace law matters, including preventive advice and counseling.

Ms. Tilley-Coulson has experience with Title IX compliance alongside sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

While attending law school, Ms. Tilley-Coulson was a Moot Court Board Member and the Notes Editor for the National Security Law Journal. Additionally, she was the President of both the Pro Bono Society and Mason...