Is your website covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act? The short answer is: possibly. This area of the law continues to evolve, with differences from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on the type of website. But make no mistake: lawsuits alleging lack of website accessibility are hot. The most common allegation is that the company website is inaccessible to visually-impaired customers, although some cases now involve mobile apps. Such customers often rely on screen-reader software like JAWS or NVDA to interact with and access a site’s content. If the website is not compatible with this or similar screen-reader technology, most visually-impaired customers will not be able to use the website.
Companies seeking to navigate these issues should start by addressing two basic questions: (1) Does your website engage in commercial activity for the benefit of the general public; and if so (2) Will the law treat your website as a public accommodation, or the service of a public accommodation? If your website sells goods or services directly to the public, or if it engages in sufficient commercial activity, it may be covered as a “sales” or “service” establishment under the ADA. If it is covered, many jurisdictions will require you to provide a website that is accessible to visually-impaired consumers and other individuals with disabilities, particularly if your website has a “nexus” to the goods or services sold out of a brick-and-mortar store.
Here are the basics of what you need to know to assess whether your website is covered and, if so, what you should do about it.