Companies that have been waiting for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to publish the official regulations on Title III web accessibility since 2010 will have to wait a while longer, as the department recently stated that it will not publish the regulations until 2018.
The promised regulations will provide formal guidelines that dictate what makes a website compliant with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act which require places of public accommodation and commercial enterprise to be accessible to the disabled.
The DOJ’s delay leaves companies vulnerable to litigation with a growing number of lawsuits being filed against companies by plaintiffs alleging that their websites fail to fulfill Title III’s accessibility requirements. Without official regulations to abide by or reference, companies have little defense against such allegations.
Courts disagree as to whether websites qualify as “places of public accommodation.” Some rule that they are, some rule that they aren’t. The most popular interpretation upholds that a website is covered by the ADA if it is linked to a brick-and-mortar store, while e-commerce operations not associated with any one physical space (such as eBay.com) are not subject to the accessibility requirements of Title III.
However, some courts interpret Title III more broadly to apply to all websites that sell goods or services online, even if they have no connection to physical retail stores. Online retailers are the most common target for litigation enforcing ADA.
If your website lacks basic accessibility features, you could be vulnerable to litigation or may encounter other forms of loss—such as loss of business from disabled consumers unable to interact with your site. While the official regulations are delayed until 2018, it’s good practice to start making accessibility accommodations in your web design now.
Imagewërks, Streamworks in-house digital agency, has worked with a number of senior living clients over the years, so we've made a habit of keeping the essential elements of web accessibility in mind when we approach a new web design.
You would be well-advised to start weighing the cost/benefit of implementing accessible design elements into your website now, especially if your target audience includes segments likely to be older or visually impaired. There are helpful resources available to check your site for basic compliance like this HHS Accessibility Checklist, and the SortSite Accessibility Checker.
Is your website ready for some accessibility updates?
Our Free Website Assessment will identify what you can do today to stay ahead of new regulations.