The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has become a significant force for website accessibility, generating waves throughout the US legal system. But it’s also challenging the world to see people with disabilities in a different light.
The ADA’s history and website accessibility
The National Law Review marks the ADA’s application from a human rights law with no mention of digital inclusion, to a growing list of legal precedence learning in that direction:
“The statute provides for various examples of where public accommodations must be provided…Noticeably absent from that list are websites. That’s because websites did not exist at the time the statute was passed, and Congress has not expressly addressed the issue in the interim.” (National Law Review, Feb 8, 2019)
ADA legal precedence for website accessibility gains momentum
But lack of clarity around the ADA has created a harsh tug-of-war between businesses and those of us living with disabilities. The unanswered question being: can digital places, such as websites, be considered places of public accommodation?
Landmark ADA cases, from the 2007 National Federal for the Blind v Target to the 2019 Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, Inc., and all the cases filed and settled between them, reinforce that the ADA deems this to be true. Each reinforce the application of the ADA to e-commerce websites as part of public accommodation.
One glance at the US legal landscape shows that this legal precedence is gaining momentum. Seyfarth & Shaw, a law firm that conducts ongoing research in this area, tells us that website accessibility lawsuits have increased by 320% over the past 8 years. (Seyfarth & Shaw, Feb. 17, 2022)
The ADA digital space application challenges us to see more
Beyond the cases and statistics, it’s important to note the remarkable sea change that applying a civil rights law, like the ADA, brings to the lives of people with disabilities. A clear affirmation that our access to all places of public accommodation is not only a legal right, but a human right.
Why is this significant? Because this application of the ADA suggests that the world see people with disabilities as more than a number that must be shaped to make “a business case.” It challenges organizations to move past “we don’t have enough disabled customers to justify the cost” to recognizing the validity of human existence as equally relevant to the bottom line.
Having worked in the digital accessibility industry for 14 years, fear of legal liability is still the primary reason the organizations we work with seek to become digitally accessible.
Perhaps because of the ADA. we can imagine a day in which gaining customers with disabilities, is seen as a more viable business goal than answering a court letter.
Read more about the ADA and website accessibility
Short articles WeCo has written so you can learn more about the ADA:
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