New California Bill Would Create Website Accessibility Obligations for Businesses Nationwide

By Jordan B. Schwartz

As our blog readers are aware, website accessibility claims have been on the rise for the past decade, with no end in sight.  To make matters worse, there is a new bill making its way through the California assembly that will exacerbate these types of claims.  And, although the bill is state-specific, it would have consequences throughout the country. Indeed, if passed, this bill would immediately create liability for businesses everywhere, so long as those businesses’ websites have California-based visitors.  In other words, virtually every business with a representative reading this blog would be affected.

By way of background, the U.S. Department of Justice has emphasized that businesses should make websites accessible to the disabled and has emphasized that businesses should do so by relying on a set of accessibility guidelines called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”). Last year, the DOJ issued what it termed “helpful guidance” on website accessibility, stating that businesses have “flexibility in how they comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication.”

In contrast, this proposed new CA law takes a much stricter and more rigid approach.  Specifically, Continue reading

Court Ruling Further Clarifies ADA Website Accessibility Obligations

Over the past several years, we have written extensively about employers’ obligations to make their websites accessible for individuals with visual, hearing and physical impairments.  In the past, we have counseled employers who are considered a “place of public accommodation” (such as a hotel, restaurant, place of recreation, doctor’s office, etc.) to at the very least do some due diligence to determine whether their websites are accessible for disabled users, so that those individuals can use and navigate those websites and/or purchase goods sold onWebsite Accessibility Picture the websites.  (For more information about the developing law on this issue, check out our prior posts here and here.)  Now, for the first time, a U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled on this issue and has confirmed that so long as there is a “nexus” between a company’s website and a physical location (which is typically the case), a company must make its website accessible or risk significant legal exposure for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

(As a reminder, although not the subject of this blog post, we have also written about a second consideration here regarding website accessibility that applies only to hotels and other places of lodging and currently is the subject of a tremendous amount of litigation.  Specifically, the implementing regulations of Title III of the ADA require a hotel’s website to provide information regarding various accessibility features at its property, so that a mobility impaired individual can determine whether he or she can navigate the public areas and guestrooms at the property.).

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The Growing Confusion and Rising Litigation Threats over Website Accessibility

shutterstock_128810011You own a store and you have a website…does your website and mobile app have to be accessible with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)?  This is a question that many retailers are struggling with especially in light of new aggressive litigation tactics taken by a single plaintiff represented by law firm in Pittsburgh who has been sending letters to companies and organizations across all industries, big and small, national chains and independents, threatening litigation under the ADA for a non-compliant website.  The law firm even recently sued the NBA over its website.

The question I receive is “what is this all about” and “what does it mean for my business?”

As background, the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of disability with regard to their participation and equal enjoyment in places of public accommodation.  Typically, the issues arise in brick-and-mortar buildings such as Continue reading