Disability Law

Are shopping websites covered by disability law? The answer could be 'yes' in new DOJ regs


Only a few courts have held that websites are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act; most take the view that the 1990 law doesn’t apply to the Internet.

The Justice Department could embrace the minority view when it issues new ADA regulations later this year, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

What would that mean for companies with websites? The newspaper asked Jared Smith, associate director of WebAIM, a nonprofit that educates companies about online accessibility. He believes companies may have to include spoken descriptions of photos and text boxes for the blind, and transcriptions of audio for the deaf.

WebAIM also advises companies to use simple language and strong design for those with intellectual disabilities, and to allow navigation without a mouse for those with motor disabilities.

Disabilities advocates have filed suits across the country in an effort to bring accessibility to websites, the story says. In an early legal victory, a federal judge ruled in 2008 that the ADA applies to websites if they are a gateway to brick and mortar stores. In a different case, a judge ruled last June that the ADA also applies to businesses that only operate online.

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