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DOJ guidance confirms ADA applies to website accessibility, but brings good news for businesses

Q&A with Elizabeth Bowersox

published in The Oklahoman | January 1, 2019

In a follow-up Q&A with The Oklahoman, labor and employment attorney Elizabeth Bowersox reviewed new guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice that addresses website accessibility issues. While the DOJ’s statement makes it clear that it considers websites to be places of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act – and, therefore, must be accessible for those with disabilities — the agency did not provide any clarity as to what specific technical standards should be followed in order to make websites ADA-compliant.

“Now the DOJ’s letter makes clear that it doesn’t view compliance with every aspect of WCAG 2.0 as required under the ADA,” said Bowersox. “Instead, the statement provides that ‘public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication.’ While it’s too soon to tell if this new flexibility will stem the tide of accessibility lawsuits, it should open the door to allowing businesses to attempt to prove that their websites or businesses are accessible, despite not meeting every aspect of WCAG 2.0 or the recently released WCAG 2.1 guidelines.”

Bowersox warned that businesses who fail to take any action in trying to make their websites more accessible to the disabled remain at risk for an ADA accessibility lawsuit.