An inaccessible business website can result in several negative consequences, from the loss of clients
and customers who are not accommodated, to complaints, fines, and litigation. Title III of the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and promotes equal opportunity
for individuals with disabilities. The ADA applies to State and local governments, employment
environments, commercial facilities, transportation services, and places of public accommodation.
Some federal courts have determined websites might be “places of public accommodation” for
purposes of the ADA, and litigation in this area is growing exponentially. In addition to Title III, alleged
discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance might also be
subject to complaints under Titles II of the ADA and/or Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
of 1973. Colleges and universities have faced civil rights complaints under the ADA an the
Rehabilitation Act regarding the inaccessibility of information technology, including websites as well
as technology used in blended and online courses.
In 2017, the federal government adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines AA (WCAG 2.0 AA)
for its agency websites, fueling speculation that the DOJ will adopt the same standard for the websites
of public accommodations as well as state and local governments under Titles II and III of the ADA.
Although the DOJ had projected that a proposed rule for public accommodations websites would be
published last year, this process was put on hold in 2018, leaving the regulatory environment for
websites and other forms of online access uncertain.
Susan H. Stephan, an attorney and the Associate Dean of Online Programs at NSU Shepard Broad
College of Law, will present a brief summary of the accessibility laws, regulations, and guidelines that
apply to online environments today. The program will include an overview of significant websiterelated ADA litigation as well as an update on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and 2.1.