Websites and Mobile Apps Targeted by DOJ and Private Litigants for Alleged Inaccessibility

Thomson’s ADA Compliance Guide

Frank C. Morris, Jr., a Member of the Firm in the Litigation and Employee Benefits practices and head of the Labor and Employment practice in the Washington, DC, office, wrote an article titled "Websites and Mobile Apps Targeted by DOJ and Private Litigants for Alleged Inaccessibility." Mr. Morris also chairs the firm's Disability Law Group.

Following is an excerpt:

Technology does exist to modify websites and mobile apps to enhance accessibility for the visually impaired; however, it may be a challenging and costly task. But based on the current enforcement and litigation environment, it is a task that should be considered when designing or significantly refreshing a website or app.

The internet seeks to promote instant gratification: a quick search on a web browser and a few clicks will lead to information about almost anything. It also provides tools for making purchases, scheduling appointments and various other activities. But according to the U.S. Department of Justice and various advocacy groups, that may not always be the case for some visually impaired individuals who, in certain circumstances, may be able to access information on the internet only with the aid of software designed to "read" websites and convert visual information into speech.

DOJ enforces Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Titles II and III of the ADA require state and local governmental agencies and private businesses, respectively, to make their goods and services as accessible to individuals with disabilities as they are to those without disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehab Act prohibits disability-based discrimination and requires accommodations by any entity that receives federal financial assistance and by federal agencies. Section 508 of the Rehab Act bars the federal government from procuring electronic and information goods and services that are not fully accessible to those with disabilities. Regulations promulgated under the Rehab Act in 2000 (found at 36 C.F.R. Part 1194) created the first-ever U.S. federal accessibility standards for the internet.