Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Compliance with Accessibility Laws
Accessible Web works with you to complete an accessibility audit and implement changes to your website to move towards conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”) through its Web Accessibility Initiative (“WAI”). The W3C is a group of persons and businesses from around the world who have banded together to work to make the web more accessible through the WAI and creation of the WCAG. Many countries throughout the world have adopted WCAG 2.0 (or derivative policies) as the standard for accessing website accessibility.
Accessibility Requirements in the U.S.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (the “ADA”) was enacted at a time when the impact of the internet in people’s life was not yet understood. Now that use of the internet is a part of everyone’s daily life, the importance of accessibility of websites, as well as mobile applications, as “places of public accomodation” under the ADA has become a front and center issue. An ever increasing volume of lawsuits have been filed under the ADA alleging that websites are not accessible.
At the same time, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the agency responsible for enforcing the ADA, has not promulgated regulations as to what a website owner must do to make its website ADA compliant.
This has left website owners in a difficult position – of potentially being liable for a breach of the ADA – but without direction as to how to comply with the ADA.
Without explicit regulations from the DOJ, Accessible Web is not able to certify that a website complies with the ADA. However, increasingly, federal courts in the U.S. have been adopting conformance with the WCAG standards as the baseline for compliance with the ADA. Plaintiffs in cases often request WCAG conformance as a remedy.
In a September 2018 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, the DOJ indicated that in the absence of “specific technical requirements for website through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements…”. See https://accessibleweb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/DOJ-Letter-to-Congress-ADA-Compliance.pdf. Given the DOJ’s stance on flexibility, it DOJ has declined to expressly state that conformance with WCAG (or any other standard) ensures compliance with the ADA. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the DOJ has entered into settlement agreements with some private companies in which the private companies agreed to bring their websites in compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA, indicating support at the DOJ with the use of WCAG as a standard. While Accessible Web cannot guaranty that conforming with WCAG equates compliance with the ADA, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or any other applicable law, the WCAG appear to be a reasonable starting point to use as guidelines for website accessibility.