On Tuesday, a federal district court in Florida issued an order in the first known trial involving accessibility to a public accommodation’s website. Ultimately, the court found that grocery giant Winn-Dixie violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) because its website was inaccessible to a visually impaired customer. As we have written about previously here and here, currently there are no binding regulations that specify the accessibility standards for websites under Title III of the ADA.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, computers used floppy disks and the “World Wide Web” was still being tested by scientists at CERN. So while the law’s drafters had a good sense of what access would look like in the physical world, they had no idea what sort of economic and social changes were in store with the birth of the Internet.
Fast forward to 2016, and the law is still murky as to disability access issues online. But that uncertainty has not stopped the plaintiffs’ bar from filing lawsuits claiming that websites are inaccessible to users with disabilities and thus violate the ADA.
Many disabled individuals access the Internet using assistive technologies. For example, blind individuals or those with low vision can use screen readers that read website content aloud for them. Websites that are incompatible with assistive technology can create barriers for users with disabilities and give rise to costly and uncertain litigation.