In today’s consumer-driven world, nearly every company has a web presence – this is not by accident. With an increasing demand for easy access to information, products and services from customers, many companies have brought enough business from their web presence to depend entirely on web traffic. With these trends in mind, there is no doubt that every company will desire an easily accessible web presence.
This desire goes beyond typing in your company web address and finding your website.
Customers who suffer from vision or hearing disabilities, for instance, may find navigating your website a challenge. In fact, a recent uptick in litigation and enforcement measures regarding websites and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act has provided extra incentive to act swiftly.
Understanding Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Simply put, Title III prohibits discrimination by private companies on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation – in order to be considered a public accommodation, you must be generally open to the public.
Title III contains 12 specific categories of public accommodation; this being said, even if your company does not fit into one of these categories it can still be included. As far as the Supreme Court is concerned: “they should be construed liberally to afford people with disabilities equal access to a wide variety of establishments available to the nondisabled.”
In the past, Title III’s requirements have been applied mostly to physical structures. However, litigators, state attorneys general, and the Department of Justice have recently argued that Title III’s requirements apply to websites. Thus, non-compliant websites are potentially violating the ADA statute.
Should You Be Worried About Your Website Meeting Title III Requirements?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was introduced to Congress in 1988, and signed in 1990, before websites were on anyone’s minds.
As internet usage continued to increase throughout the 1990s, along with its explosion into the 21st century, lawyers and judges have struggled to determine where Title III’s bar sits on disability discrimination when applied to virtual spaces. Within this time, there have been three approaches:
- The Department of Justice, along with many courts, note that the original goal of the Act was to reduce disability discrimination – concluding that websites for public accommodations must comply with Title III. The Department of Justice continues to work toward a revised regulation that would place websites within Title III’s reach.
- The second approach outlines that websites only fall under Title III if there is a nexus between the website and the business’s physical location. A customer with disabilities must have access to both your physical and virtual locations.
- The third approach maintains that Title III applies only to physical spaces – not websites. Courts following this approach have left it up to Congress to revise Title III to include websites within the law’s coverage before they decide to act upon it.
Planning an Accessible Future
Although a definite standard for Title III website compliance has yet to be established, disability advocacy groups agree that a website is accessible if it conforms to the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines. In fact, after launching multiple civil enforcement actions, the Department of Justice has even entered into settlement agreements with companies after they had improved their websites to match these Website Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Along with this, the software industry has been innovatively developing technologies meant to assist the disabled in navigating websites. Amongst these technologies are voice-dictation software, voice-navigation software, and magnification software.
Even without potential legal ramifications; it’s safe to say that every company wants their website to reach the broadest possible audience.
There isn’t a company out there who wants to stand out as being disability-adverse. It’s imperative to consider your legal obligations, business needs, and clients now rather than waiting for a blow to your company’s reputation or formal legal action.
Here at Information Systems Integration, we can help you get ahead of the game with solutions for an accessible, sophisticated, and successful web presence! Interested in learning more? Contact us at (866) 788-2354, or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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