Does Every Website Need to Be ADA Compliant in 2024?
Generally, yes, your website needs to be accessible.
Let’s look at some official-unofficial language from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Per the DOJ’s Guidance on Web Accessibility:
Businesses open to the public. Public accommodations.
Title III prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by businesses open to the public (also referred to as “public accommodations” under the ADA). The ADA requires that businesses open to the public provide full and equal enjoyment of their goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to people with disabilities.
All goods, services, privileges, or activities offered by public accommodations.
For these reasons, the Department has consistently taken the position that the ADA’s requirements apply to all the goods, services, privileges, or activities offered by public accommodations, including those offered on the web.
So the DOJ’s stance is the ADA applies to businesses open to the public or “public accommodations” and all goods, services, privileges, or activities offered by public accommodations must be accessible.
Broadly, Title III’s general prohibition against discrimination by places of public accommodation can cover websites.
But more specifically, Sec. 12182 (b)(2)(A)(iii) also requires that no individual with a disability is treated differently because of the absence of auxiliary aids.
This requirement is detailed in the Code of Federal Regulations, 28 CFR § 36.303(c)(1) which states that a public accommodation shall furnish auxiliary aids to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities.
Although the law has been interpreted and applied unevenly by different courts, we do know that courts have generally held that the ADA applies to websites.
As such, if your website falls under any of the bullets listed below, it is likely to be subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What Websites are Required to be ADA Compliant?
- Websites connected to places of public accommodation
- Websites that are considered places of public accommodation
- Websites that are commercial in nature (sells goods or services)
- Websites open to and intended for the general public
The ADA does provide for two exemptions for private clubs and religious organizations. Note that there are strict requirements for private clubs.
Although there is no precise language that addresses modern digital technology, plaintiffs’ law firms currently dictate whether website accessibility under various anti-discrimination laws is enforced via private litigation. And many plaintiffs law firms think the ADA does apply.
This gets into what I call practical ADA compliance because even though you may have a technical argument, practically you’d rather avoid the cost of receiving a demand letter and/or defending against a lawsuit.
What are Places of Public Accomodation?
Since courts have regularly ruled that websites are considered places of public accommodation, under Title III of the ADA, accessibility is / should be only mandatory for websites that affect interstate commerce and fit under 12 listed categories:
A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;
B) a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;
C) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition entertainment;
D) an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;
E) a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;
F) a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment;
G) a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation;
H) a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;
I) a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation;
J) a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;
K) a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and
L) a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.
If you fall under one of these twelve categories, the ADA very likely applies to you.
By the way, my ADA Compliance Course tells you the 15 accessibility issues plaintiffs lawyers claim repeatedly in litigation. The course also tells you how to find and fix these issues. You can learn more at ADACompliance.net.