The sort answer to the question of whether websites have to comply with the ADA is yes. If the business has a physical location visited by the public, the website that establishes the online presence of the brick and mortar business must comply with the ADA. That is the short answer, and it is the conclusion that one can draw from seeing how successful cases against companies in Florida have been, and how prevalent they have been, in recent history, as described in this article, https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/the-current-landscape-of-website-18986/ but that I will also explain below.
The long answer is that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is binding on Florida, Alabama and Georgia, has held in two cases that a business can be sued over its website not being ADA complaint. The most recent of these decisions was a case involving Dunkin Doughnuts, and an article on that case, can be found here, https://www.levelaccess.com/time-make-website-accessible-court-appeals-allows-ada-lawsuit-dunkin-donuts-proceed/. If you are in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, then chances are your businesses website has to be compliant. Most other Courts around the country have also held that websites have to be complaint with the ADA, but only the 11th and 9th Circuits have come out with binding decisions on the matter, an article on the 9th Circuits ruling can be found by clicking here,https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2019/04/30/ninth-circuit-reaffirms-applicability-of-ada-to-websites/?slreturn=20190431151923.
But there are some websites that do not need to be compliant. If a potential customer does not need the website, or the information on the website, to enjoy the physical location, then it is questionable whether the website must comply. However, the bar for that is incredibly low, having store locators on your website, or advertising a special or sale, is usually enough. The question is what ADA standards a website needs to be complaint with and why. The answer is unclear at law, and no one answer can be given. However, generally compliance is sought with WCAG II guidelines. WCAG stands for Web Accessibility Guidelines and they are now on the second set of Web Accessibility Guidelines. The requirements of WCAG II are technical and involve the ways your website is coded. If you are a programmer, and want to know what the WCAG II says in terms that computer programmer understand then click on the following link to access them, https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/.
However, if your question is why does a website need to be complaint with the ADA, the answer is simpler than understanding how WCAG II requires computer programmers to code. Those who are visually impaired use screen readers to operate computers and access the internet. Long ago Windows and Microsoft Programs became readable by screen readers. However, the vast majority of websites are not compatible with screen readers. What that means is that when a website does not meet WCAG II standards, most screen reading software will not read the website to a visually impaired individual, and that means that a visually impaired person cannot use the website at all. By: Joshua H. Sheskin, Esq., Trial Counsel Lubell & Rosen LLC. Joshua Sheskin’s practice focuses on business defense, labor, and ADA Advocacy, you can contact Joshua Sheskin at 954-880-9500 or [email protected].