Why is ADA Title III relevant to you?
Title III of the ADA
deals with non-discriminatory rules applied to the private sector and non-profit organizations.
It stipulates physical “places of public accommodations and commercial facilities.” However, the revised Title III Regulation of January 17, 2017 has made it crystal clear that the law applies to the Web as well.
Title III notes: “…the Department [of Justice] has taken the position that title III covers access to Web sites of public accommodations.”
Furthermore: “The Department has issued guidance on the ADA as applied to the Web sites of public entities, which includes the availability of standards for Web site accessibility.”
Indeed, the DOJ has left this area somewhat equivocal—“The Department did not issue proposed regulations... and thus is unable to issue specific regulatory language on Web site accessibility at this time”—but recent developments suggest that companies should engage in preliminary protection against lawsuits and strive for full ADA compliance.
ADA history: Websites integrated with brick-and-mortar stores
Suit claims filed in federal courts have grown exponentially since 2018, with 10,982 ADA Title III cases filed in 2020. The trend only continued to grow in early 2021 (according to a Seyfarth report
The precedent for web accessibility-related claims was set in 2006 with National Federation of Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F. Supp. 2d 946 (N.D. Cal. 2006).
The plaintiff sued national retail chain Target for not providing accessibility on its website to the blind.
The case tested Title III of the ADA, as Target argued that it applies to physical spaces only.
But the Superior Court of California disagreed. It held that there was a sufficient “nexus” (a connection linking two or more things) between Target’s physical and online services. The court concluded that many of the website benefits were services “heavily integrated with the brick-and-mortar stores” and therefore should be accessible as required by Title III.
Target and the National Federation of the Blind struck a civil action settlement in August 2008.
In the years to follow, this ruling expanded in its interpretations as more companies learned that while the ADA does not stipulate specific web accessibility standards, courts have ruled that the responsibility rests on them to provide access to the disabled, frequently referring to the independent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the conforming standard of ADA compliance.