Website Accessibility Under the ADA

We live in an age of rapid technological innovation.  The Internet has brought many advantages to society, from the immediate access of otherwise unattainable information to purchases and transactions from the comfort of one’s home. 

Along with these and other advantages afforded to the general public, individuals with disabilities can benefit greatly from the technological advancement driven by the Internet. However, in order to ensure equal enjoyment of the Internet and all that it offers, websites must be fully accessible for individuals with disabilities.  

Under the Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “places of public accommodation” are required to be fully accessible to allow all members of the general public (including individuals with disabilities) full and equal access.  Websites are considered “places of public accommodation” and are subject to the ADA’s accessibility requirements.

WHAT ISSUES DO INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES TYPICALLY ENCOUNTER ON NON-ACCESSIBLE WEBSITES? 

Unfortunately, websites that are not designed to be accessible pose significant barriers to the access of the products and/or services that the websites offer to the public (known as “Access Barriers”).  The exact Access Barriers can vary based on the individual’s disability.  For example, visually impaired individuals who commonly use a screen reading software to access websites can be prevented from accessing and enjoying a website’s products and/or services by a range of Access Barriers, such as:

  • The lack of a text equivalent for non-text elements and visual content (such as pictures);
  • The lack of forms designed for visually impaired individuals with the same information and functionality as for sighted persons;
  • The inability to resize text without assistive technology without losing content or functionality;
  • If the content enforces a time limit, the user is not able to extend, adjust or disable it;
  • The inability to determine the purpose of each hyperlink from the text of the link itself or the context of the link;
  • Content that that requires input from the user (such as CAPTCHA prompts) without labels or instructions explaining what input is needed; or
  • PDFs that cannot be read by screen reading software.

These and other Access Barriers can prevent visually impaired individuals from accessing certain websites.  Likewise, individuals with other disabilities (such as individuals that are deaf or hard-of-hearing, individuals that are mobility disabled, or individuals that are cognitively or intellectually disabled) can be prevented from accessing products or services offered to the public by a range of Access Barriers found on websites. 

WHAT CAN INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES THAT ARE PREVENTED FROM ACCESSING A WEBSITE DO?

Because the ADA was enacted in order to ensure equal accessibility for individuals with disabilities, the ADA provides the right for individuals that are victims of inaccessibility to bring a lawsuit against the owners and operators of the public accommodation.  These lawsuits ensure that the owners and operators of the public accommodation fix the inaccessibility. 

Additionally, the ADA allows for the reimbursement of legal fees.  Because of the reluctance of certain website owners to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities, it may take a strategically planned lawsuit to ensure that Access Barriers on a particular website are corrected.

PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS

If you are the victim of website inaccessibility, contact the attorneys at Cohen & Mizrahi LLP now to protect your rights.  The attorneys at Cohen & Mizrahi have significant experience litigating website accessibility under the ADA on behalf of their clients.  Let the attorneys at Cohen & Mizrahi LLP fight for you!


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