In March of this year, a California state court ruled that a retailer that sells luggage both from a traditional store location as well as online violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by maintaining a website that was inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. The plaintiff, Edward Davis, who suffers a visual impairment, sued, claiming he could not access the goods and services offered by the defendant on its website. Finding a sufficient connection between the defendant’s “retail store and its website that directly affected” ability to access its goods and services, the San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge ruled for Davis and awarded him $4,000 in damages under California’s state law copycat of the ADA. In addition, the Judge determined that Davis was entitled to recover his attorney fees incurred while pursuing the claim.
The U.S. Department of Justice has announced plans to issue proposed regulations for websites in the near future. However, plans that were previously promised for early 2016 as to state and local governments have yet to materialize. Rules for private companies are slated for 2018 – more than a year late.
In the meantime, if your company offers goods and services to the public in a brick and mortar location and also has an online presence, you may wish to review the accessibility of your website for people suffering visual or auditory impairments, especially if you are looking to invest in a new or upgraded website.
No doubt more lawsuits of this type will follow based on this California decision. Stay tuned for updates on this rapidly evolving area of the law.