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ADA Website Compliance Lawsuits: Federal Judges Say Websites Are Not “Places of Accommodation”

By John DiGiacomo

Is your website compliant with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act? See 42 U.S.C. ยง 12101. If you do not know, it is time to seek legal advice and counsel from ADA website compliance lawyers like the ones at Revision Legal. The ADA requires that all “places of accommodation” be accessible to those with disabilities.

There has been a lot of ADA website compliance litigation over the last couple of decades. These cases have generated an ongoing legal debate about whether the ADA applies to websites and to the internet in general. The argument against is that the ADA applies only to physical locations. Under this reasoning, the ADA would not apply to websites because they do not exist in physical space. The argument for is that the ADA is not limited to physical locations.

Many federal courts have avoided making a clear decision by adopting a “hybrid” approach where, under some circumstances, the ADA DOES apply to websites. Under these court decisions, a website must be ADA compliant if two conditions are met:

  • The business operating a website also has at least one physical store or location to which customers can go and
  • The website is used to “drive traffic” — attract consumers — to the physical location

When these conditions are met, websites must be accessible to the blind, the deaf and others with disabilities. The reasoning is that the website is part of the features and benefits associated with the physical location. As such, the anti-discrimination intent behind the ADA must be applied to the features and benefits connected to the place of accommodation.

Recently, there have been two decisions handed down in ADA website compliance litigation cases involving so-called “pure” website situations. In both cases, the businesses operating websites did not have any physical locations to which customers could go. In both cases, the judges held that the ADA did not apply.

The first case is Winegard v. Newsday, LLC, Case No. 19-CV-04420 (US Dist. Court, ED New York 2021). In that case, the plaintiff was deaf/hard-of-hearing and he sued Newsday for failing to provide visual translations of videos posted on Newsday’s website. The plaintiff alleged violation of the ADA because the Newsday website was not ADA compliant. While Newsday — a media company — offers physical newspapers for sale and operates a website, Newsday has no physical stores or locations to which customers can go to purchase Newsday products. For this reason, the judge ruled that the ADA did not apply to Newsday’s website.

The second ADA website compliance litigation case was Martinez v., Inc., Case US Dist. Court, ED New York 2021). In that case, the plaintiff was legally blind and attempted to access the defendant’s website. The defendant’s website is aimed at selling products and services related to managing, improving and learning about one’s online reputation. Plaintiff was unable to use the website since it was not coded to allow audio translations for visual materials. The plaintiff alleged violation of the ADA because the MyLife website was not ADA compliant. However, as with Newsday, MyLife operates only online, has no physical stores or other physical locations and the website does not “drive traffic” to any physical location. As such, the judge held that the ADA does not apply.

Contact Revision Legal For more information or if you have been searching for an “ADA compliance attorney near me,” call Revision Legal at 231-714-0100. We are ADA website compliance attorneys with proven experience in ADA compliance litigation. We are lawyers specializing in internet law.

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