The shift of our economy from physical bricks-and-mortar to digital online commerce has led to an expanded interpretation that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) not only applies to a business' physical location, but also to its digital presence, to its website.
Over the past year more than 240 lawsuits have been filed against companies in the hospitality and foodservice industries for failure to maintain websites that are accessible to the blind and visually impaired.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against the disabled in places of public accommodation, including the blind and visually impaired. As originally enacted, the ADA did not expressly include websites as places of “public accommodation” as the Internet was in its infancy back in 1990. Over the years, the courts have interpreted places of “public accommodation” to include the websites for location-based businesses.
ADA lawsuits expose companies to damages, potentially costly litigation and injunctive actions. It is important for all community leisure venues from restaurants to family entertainment centers (FECs) to bowling centers to have their websites in compliance with ADA.
Blind and visually impaired individuals typically use specialized software, including screen reader technology that reads website content aloud and allows users to access and navigate websites. So it is important that your website is built so it is compatible with screen reader technology. This includes making sure that any new features that are added or any updates to the website are screen reader compatible as well.