Title III of the ADA applies to online accessibility and public accommodations for businesses and organizations that are open to the public. Title III standards also apply to any digital property that an organization owns, including its website or app.
Even though ADA regulations apply to digital assets, they continue lack specific guidelines for how organizations are to accommodate users with disabilities. This continues to leave organizations with uncertainty about which steps to take as they work to achieve accessibility.
California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act is another piece of legislation that refers to web accessibility, prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s:
- National origin
- Medical condition
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Primary language
- Immigration status
Any ADA violations are also likely to encroach on Unruh legislation, but Unruh regulations are more standardized, so the state of California is often stricter than the federal courts. This leads many plaintiffs to do what they can to keep lawsuits within the state.
Violations of the Unruh Act that are independent of ADA violations require intent to be proven. This act affirms that websites or any digital property that are inaccessible to users with disabilities are discriminatory.
In Canada, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is an Ontario law mandating that organizations must follow standards to become more accessible to people with disabilities.
AODA applies to five specific areas:
- Customer service
- Design of public spaces
- Information and communication
The AODA aims to make each of these areas of public life accessible by 2025. All levels of government, private sectors, and nonprofits must comply with this legislation.
A Note on Annual ADA Lawsuit Trends
2020 was a record-breaking year for ADA-related digital lawsuits, which grew 23 percent from 2019. More than 3,500 new cases were filed in California and federal court last year—the equivalent of about 10 new lawsuits during each business day.
Seventy percent of all ADA cases are filed by just 10 plaintiff law firms, which themselves filed more than 2,500 cases last year. These law firms are very experienced in finding sites that are inaccessible, sending claim letters, and pursuing these cases. You never want to ignore a claim letter.
Retailers are often at the center of these legal filings, making up more than seventy-seven percent of all digital accessibility lawsuits. Ninety-eight percent of plaintiffs win ADA lawsuits.