United States: ADA Litigation: Website Accessibility Claims On The Rise

In today's technology-driven society, retailers are increasingly using the Internet to provide information, goods, and services to the public. While having a website is almost a mandatory aspect of operating a retail business, it's important to ensure that the website does not also market the business to potential lawsuits. Websites have become the new hotbed of litigation brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and retailers who are increasingly relying on their Web presence need to take note.

What Does the ADA Require?

Title III of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination by places of public accommodation, including retail stores and shopping centers.

When Congress enacted the ADA in 1990, the existence of the Internet and the pervasiveness it holds in today's society was all but unfathomable. As such, the ADA does not specifically address website accessibility. However, as Congress expressly stated when passing the ADA, "the types of accommodation and services provided to individuals with disabilities, under all of the titles of this bill, should keep pace with the rapidly changing technology of the times" and technological advances "may require public accommodations to provide auxiliary aids and services in the future which today would not be required."

Increasingly, plaintiffs' lawyers are claiming that publicly available websites are inaccessible to users with disabilities, thereby disadvantaging individuals with disabilities in a modern society that is largely driven by an electronic marketplace. How can websites be inaccessible? Many people with disabilities use "assistive technology" to enable them to use computers and access the Internet.

For example, individuals who are blind or have low vision may use screen readers – devices that speak the text on a monitor – to assist them in accessing a website's content. However, such users cannot fully access a site unless it is designed to work with the screen-reading software. Another example of an accessibility barrier that needs to be addressed is ensuring your individual website pages are coded so that users can navigate by means of a keyboard or single-switch access device alone, without need of a mouse. Users who cannot use a mouse with precision could find your website unnavigable without this design. Websites that do not accommodate assistive technology can create unnecessary barriers for users with disabilities, and help fuel website accessibility claims.

Recent Legal Ruling Provides Warning

Recently, a California superior court judge ruled in favor of a blind plaintiff who sued luggage retailer Colorado Bag'n Baggage, claiming that he was unable to shop online for the retailer's products because its website lacked screen-reading software to assist customers with disabilities.

In its March 2016 ruling for the plaintiff, the court noted that the customer had "presented sufficient evidence and legal argument to conclude Title III of the ADA applies to plaintiff's use of a website." The court noted that he properly demonstrated he "sought goods and services from a place of public accommodation" because he demonstrated a sufficient connection exists between the retail store and its website that directly affects a customer's ability to access goods and services.

The court ordered the retailer to pay the plaintiff $4,000 as a judgment for the ADA violation, in addition to paying for the plaintiff's attorney fees and costs. Further, the court ordered the retailer to take the necessary steps to make its website "readily accessible to and usable by visually impaired individuals." If it is unable or unwilling to do so, the court said that the company would need to terminate its website, which would be a death knell to most businesses.

As a result of this recent decision, coupled with the remaining uncertainty in the law, many plaintiffs' lawyers are seizing on the opportunity by sending demand letters and filing lawsuits.

Department of Justice Takes Strong Stance

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the agency responsible for implementing the ADA, has also taken the position that "the statute's broad and expansive nondiscrimination mandate reaches goods and services provided by covered entities on websites over the Internet." In 2010, the DOJ issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, reaffirming its longstanding position that the ADA applies to websites of public accommodations, and reiterating that the ADA should be interpreted to keep pace with the developing technologies.

The DOJ also set forth its position in two statements of interest that it filed in June 2015 in a federal lawsuit against two prominent academic institutions that failed to provide comprehensive captioning for online course materials. In its statements, the DOJ argues that existing case law and the proposed rulemaking commentary that supplements the ADA are sufficient justifications to require the universities to make their websites more accessible by captioning their online videos.

Thus, although it is currently anticipated that formal guidance from the DOJ on website accessibility will not be provided until at least 2018, the ADA still applies without such pending regulations.

How Can You Make Your Website More Accessible?

In preparation for the DOJ's new regulations, all website owners and operators should begin making their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities through features that facilitate easier navigation and are compatible with assistive technologies.

The DOJ has emphasized its interest in adopting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, a set of international standards outlining methods to make websites more accessible for individuals with disabilities, which many plaintiffs' lawyers also rely on in their settlements. You should therefore review WCAG 2.0 for guidance on making your website accessible for a variety of ADA-covered disabilities.


The bottom line is that businesses should anticipate receiving increased ADA scrutiny and challenge to their online activities. Taking the time to ensure that your website is accessible to individuals with disabilities will not only protect your business against the rising potential of lawsuits, but also open your doors to new customers and clients.

Previously published in Retailing Today - June 2016

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.