Title I of the ADA prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA was amended on September 25, 2008, to clarify and reiterate who is covered by the law. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), Pub. L. 110‐325, made significant changes to the ADA’s definition of “disability” that broadens the scope of coverage under both the ADA and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The Department of Justice may file lawsuits in federal court to enforce the ADA Compliance, and courts may order compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination if the Department prevails. Under title III, the Department of Justice may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation of ADA Compliance.
As I mentioned above, under each WCAG 2.1 principle is a list of guidelines, and under each guideline are compliance standards, with techniques and failure examples at each level. Some guidelines include only Level A items; others include items for multiple levels of conformance, building from A to AAA. At each stage, you can easily see what more you would need to do to reach Level AA or AAA. In this way, many websites include elements at multiple levels of accessibility.
Unfortunately, the waters have always been muddy surrounding ADA website compliance. While there are agreed-upon standards, there aren’t inspectors and clear paths to remediate fines, as there are with physical spaces. Even the rules that do exist have never been as clear as they should be. Additionally, Congress enacted the ADA Amendments Act to clarify the meaning and interpretation of the ADA definition of “disability” to ensure that it would be broadly defined, without extensive analysis. This creates even more potential for lawsuits.
Section 504 prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in employment and in their programs and activities. Each federal agency has its own set of Section 504 regulations that apply to its particular programs. For example, through Section 504 and the ADA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services works to make sure that doctor's offices, clinics and medical equipment are accessible to people with disabilities. DOL's CRC enforces Section 504 for the department as it relates to recipients of financial assistance. An award-winning documentary film, "The Power of 504," documents the events that led to the signing of Section 504 into law.
As always, litigation also became an important vehicle for the Commission to establish its policy positions on the provisions of the ADA. From the Act's effective date through July 2, 2000, the Commission has filed 375 ADA lawsuits, successfully resolving more than 91 percent of the lawsuits filed in district court either by settlement or jury verdict. The Commission also has participated as amicus curiae in 87 cases on issues arising from or connected to the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act (an act that protects federal employees and others connected with the Federal Government from workplace discrimination and which was the precursor of the ADA), or other state disability laws.
ADA website compliance is about making sure that everyone has equal access to all the elements on your website and apps. That may mean you need to provide alternatives for some of the functions and content on your site in order to meet ADA website compliance standards. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the accommodations that need to be incorporated into your website to meet the ADA guidelines:
“The idea of equal access, equal opportunity has sort of evolved in its application from brick and mortar to eCommerce. At first, many companies were worried about the desktop experience. Now, the concern extends to both smart phones and devices. Wherever a consumer accesses your content – whether it be directly through the web or an app – you need to be concerned about accessibility.”
Because of this, among the greatest drivers of website accessibility are usability improvements and the reputation boost that it brings—or, alternatively, the lost business that organizations want to avoid as a result of inaccessible websites. According to a survey by the National Business Disability Council at the Viscardi Center, 91 percent of customers say that they’d prefer to shop at a website that prioritizes accessibility.
This portion of the law is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with this law. The regulations for Title I define disability, establish guidelines for the reasonable accommodation process, address medical examinations and inquiries, and define “direct threat” when there is significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual employee with a disability or others.
Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. was a case that was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2005. The defendant argued that as a vessel flying the flag of a foreign nation it was exempt from the requirements of the ADA. This argument was accepted by a federal court in Florida and, subsequently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower courts on the basis that Norwegian Cruise Lines was a business headquartered in the United States whose clients were predominantly Americans and, more importantly, operated out of port facilities throughout the United States.
The truth is, this law does not require employees to change the job description of any position. This legislation is intended to target employers who will not hire, or make their offices accessible to, qualified people with disabilities. For example, a studio would not be required to hire a blind photographer, but they would be not be allowed to turn down a photographer who uses a wheelchair simply because they do not want to build a ramp.
Several U.S. courts, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, have ruled that commercial websites, including those where people make online purchases, are bound by ADA regulations. The ADA calls for auxiliary aids in communication, which has been interpreted by courts as extending to online video captioning and website accessibility.
An employer generally does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation unless an individual with a disability has asked for one. if an employer believes that a medical condition is causing a performance or conduct problem, it may ask the employee how to solve the problem and if the employee needs a reasonable accommodation. Once a reasonable accommodation is requested, the employer and the individual should discuss the individual's needs and identify the appropriate reasonable accommodation. Where more than one accommodation would work, the employer may choose the one that is less costly or that is easier to provide.