The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. It is a civil rights law that was created to ensure that people with disabilities will have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA accomplishes this purpose by prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all types of public life; such as jobs, schools, transportation, and all other public and private places that are open to the general public.
Does the ADA Apply to Digital Accessibility?
There has been much discussion (and argument) about whether or not the ADA also applies to digital accessibility, such as websites and software for public accommodations. There was a planned update that would have included new rules to provide specific guidance regarding what website and software accessibility looks like under the ADA. Unfortunately, on December 26, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the rule updates had been placed on an “inactive” list, with no information about if or when they might be revisited.
In June 2018, after an increase in website accessibility lawsuits (partially due to the DOJ’s decision), 103 members of the House of Representatives wrote a letter asking the DOJ to put a stop to these lawsuits until formal regulations had been adopted. The letter requested that the DOJ “state publicly that private legal action under the ADA with respect to websites is unfair and violates basic due process principles”.
The DOJ responded in September 2018 and their response reaffirmed their position that the ADA does, in fact, apply to websites. Their response letter stated, in part:
“The Department first articulated its interpretation that the ADA applies to public accommodations’ websites over 20 years ago. This interpretation is consistent with the ADA’s title III requirement that the goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally accessible to people with disabilities.
Additionally, the Department has consistently taken the position that the absence of a specific regulation does not serve as a basis for noncompliance with a statute’s requirements. Absent the adoption of specific technical requirements for websites through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication.”
Where Do We Go from Here?
As fears over ‘drive-by’ website lawsuits grow, a growing number of us are undergoing audit and remediation processes. The number of companies offering accessibility services is growing, but how do you know if you’re hiring the right one? With everyone jumping on the bandwagon of accessible audit and remediation, it’s hard to know who to trust, or what you’re getting.
WeCo is a mission-based for-profit company that insists on creating opportunities for professionals who lives with disabilities. Currently, 100% of WeCo’s support staff team live with a disability and can provide you with Accessibility Specialists and trained Usability Testers who live with disabilities across the four recognized primary disability groups:
WeCo’s services include all of the following, and more!
- WeCo tests for verification with all access legislation including, World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, combined with our own WeCo Advisory Board approved Standards of Access.
- We provide our clients with extensive testing reportsto help them learn, document their own best practices, and cite their organization’s due diligence efforts.
- Our testing services also include personalized assistance from our team of Accessibility Specialists, who guide our clients to help them make their websites, software products, and other online targets become accessible to people living with disabilities.
Want to learn more about accessibility? WeCo has a variety of free public and paid single-seat trainings available. Some examples of the training we offer:
- Getting Started in Accessibility
- Make Your Business Case for Accessibility (Webinar)
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Jump Start
For a complete list of WeCo’s training events, visit our Events & Training page.
Further reading from WeCo’s Accessibility Blog about the ADA and digital accessibility: