Digital Accessibility Regulations: 2022 Mid-Year Update

Gavel on a keyboard, symbolizing digital accessibility lawsuits.

Twice a year, Equidox updates the Accessibility Regulations guide. This ensures that the resource includes any recent changes to federal or state digital accessibility laws. As of June 2022, few changes have been made since the January 2022 update. 

 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has not been silent on the issue of digital accessibility. Since the last update in January, the DoJ has issued guidance on website accessibility, clarifying that it does consider websites to be places of public accommodation covered under the ADA. It also emphasized its plan to prioritize its enforcement of website accessibility. 

  

Circuit Courts Still Divided

Despite this new guidance from the Department of Justice,  Federal Circuit Courts continue to be split in their ruling. These are Federal level rulings applying to questions involving ADA violations, and are not to be confused with any state-level Civil Rights requirements that also cover digital accessibility.

 

 

Courts that DON’T apply Title III to websites

Courts in the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits have held that ADA Title III only applies to physical places of public accommodations. That includes:

 

 

Third:

Pennsylvania

New Jersey

Delaware

The Virgin Islands

 

 

Sixth:

Kentucky

Michigan

Ohio

Tennessee

 

 

Ninth:

Alaska

Arizona

California

Guam

Hawaii

 

 

Eleventh:

Alabama

Florida

Georgia

 

 

The “nexus” consideration

While the 9th circuit applies Title III only to physical places of public accommodation, it also covers the services they offer. Websites sometimes are considered services where there is a connection, or “nexus,” between the physical and digital locations.  

 

For example, the notable Robles v Domino’s case ruled that the website was a service. Visitors could use the website to order pizza from the physical store. Courts, therefore, considered the website to be covered by the ADA and its accessibility requirements. 

 

 

Courts that DO apply Title III to website

Meanwhile,  federal courts in the First, Second, and Seventh Circuits interpret Title III to include services that don’t require an in-person visit. With this rationale, Title III applies to websites. States in these circuits include: 

 

 

First:

Maine

Massachusetts 

New Hampshire 

Puerto Rico 

Rhode Island

 

 

Second:

Connecticut

New York 

Vermont

 

 

Seventh:

Illinois

Indiana

Wisconsin

 

 

Remember that just because your organization isn’t located in a state or circuit that applies the ADA to websites doesn’t mean you won’t face litigation. If the plaintiff lives in one of those jurisdictions, its laws apply to your organization and website. Simply put, your website is covered by any state it markets to… which could include all of them.   

 

Protect your organization against lawsuits

Due to the Department of Justice’s increased enforcement of digital accessibility laws, there could be an uptick in accessibility lawsuits. So far in 2022, plaintiffs have already filed nearly 1000 digital accessibility lawsuits.  Don’t leave your organization open to litigation. Familiarize yourself with federal and state accessibility regulations that affect the jurisdictions in which you and your target audience are located. Making your website and digital resources accessible helps you avoid lawsuits wherever you do business.

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Nina Overdorff

Nina comes to Onix with years of sales and marketing experience from a variety of industries, and holds a BS in Language Arts Education. Nina has a passion for words, storytelling, and information, which she believes everyone should have access to regardless of ability. After spending time as a teacher with a blind student, she became much more aware of the limitations and abilities of web accessibility, and how essential it is to those experiencing disabilities. “Being able to access information equally ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity for education, employment, and success in life.”

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