The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first passed in 1990. Twenty years later, the US Department of Justice released an update called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These standards cover the design of physical spaces and have been interpreted to include web locations as well, so it can be difficult for the would-be accessible website designer to use them.

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and says that places of public accommodation (including private commercial enterprises) need to make accommodations for the disabled (42 U.S.C. § 12182).  Importantly, a place of public accommodation, per 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7), amounts to a privately operated facility whose operations affect commerce.   However, since the ADA came pre Internet era, the ADA didn’t contemplate or mention websites or apps.


Leading web developers have been pioneering accessibility and publishing standards since 1994. In 1999, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). In essence, the people who determine how the internet is written came together to advise web developers on how to make websites accessible not only to people with disabilities, but to all web users, including those with highly limited devices.

ADA disabilities include both mental and physical medical conditions. A condition does not need to be severe or permanent to be a disability.[6] Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations provide a list of conditions that should easily be concluded to be disabilities: deafness, blindness, an intellectual disability (formerly termed mental retardation), partially or completely missing limbs or mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.[7] Other mental or physical health conditions also may be disabilities, depending on what the individual's symptoms would be in the absence of "mitigating measures" (medication, therapy, assistive devices, or other means of restoring function), during an "active episode" of the condition (if the condition is episodic).[7]
Some people feel that the wording is so vague a person with any "minor" problem could file frivolous lawsuits for easy money. For example, they say, a person with a stiff neck could neglect certain job duties while hiding behind the ADA. However, this argument demonstrates a couple of misunderstanding about the nature of disabilities and the rules spelled out by this legislation.

A 1997 jury verdict finding that Wal-Mart had discriminated by refusing to hire an individual who used a wheelchair because of his disability. As part of its evidence, EEOC introduced a videotape showing the charging party performing many physically challenging activities during his daily life. The jury awarded $8,399 in back pay, $75,000 in compensatory damages, and $3.5 million in punitive damages (later reduced to $225,000 because of the statutory cap on punitive damages).


Hey Casey, this is one of the areas where things get a little weird because the W3 doesn’t actually have any say over the ADA guidelines, it is more than the ADA guidelines adopted the WCAG 2.0 guidelines as just that, a guideline to help. As far as I know, the tool you’ve linked to hasn’t been used in any judgements I’m aware of. Usually when it comes down to making a decision on if something is/isn’t compliant they have people use the actual PAWS tools and show what elements do/don’t work as intended or are otherwise inaccessible. Hope this helps!

A. No. The ADA does not require that an employer hire an applicant with a disability over other applicants because the person has a disability. The ADA only prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. It makes it unlawful to refuse to hire a qualified applicant with a disability because he is disabled or because a reasonable accommodation is required to make it possible for this person to perform essential job functions.


* All new construction in public accommodations, as well as in "commercial facilities" such as office buildings, must be accessible. Elevators are generally not required in buildings under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping center, mall, or a professional office of a health care provider.

An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications provided by an employer to enable people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Accommodations vary depending upon the needs of the individual applicant or employee. Not all people with disabilities (or even all people with the same disability) will require the same accommodation. For example:
You may file a charge of discrimination on the basis of disability by contacting any EEOC field office, located in cities throughout the United States. If you have been discriminated against, you are entitled to a remedy that will place you in the position you would have been in if the discrimination had never occurred. You may be entitled to hiring, promotion, reinstatement, back pay, or reasonable accommodation, including reassignment. You may also be entitled to attorneys fees.

The Department has assembled an official online version of the 2010 Standards to bring together the information in one easy-to-access location.  It provides the scoping and technical requirements for new construction and alterations resulting from the adoption of revised 2010 Standards in the final rules for Title II (28 CFR part 35) and Title III (28 CFR part 36).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is one of several disability-related laws and probably the one with which many Americans are most familiar. The purpose of the law is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA guarantees this for people with disabilities in all aspects of everyday life — from employment opportunities, to being able to purchase goods and services, to participating in state and local governments' programs and services. For a quick overview of the ADA read "The Americans with Disabilities Act: A Brief Overview".
The Internet brought a new wave of ADA concerns, with solutions which have not been fully defined. We know more and more of our daily interactions happen online, and that 19 percent of Americans (56.7 million people) have disabilities, many of which affect their ability to use the web. Because many companies’ core business is online, it has become increasingly important for them to stay in the know about how its accessibility (or lack thereof) can impact them legally. Before diving in deeper, let’s start by defining ADA Law.
A 1993 consent decree resolving a claim alleging disability-based distinctions in a union's health insurance plan which limited lifetime benefits for AIDS to $50,000, while providing benefits up to $500,000 for other catastrophic conditions. In this case, the defendant company and union agreed to pay $100,000 for medical expenses and damages, and to remove the limit on AIDS coverage retroactive to the ADA's effective date.
Many people may not know that ADA compliance extends to websites now. Your website, of course, isn't discriminating based on not having an elevator or ramp, but it may not be using appropriate colors, fonts and file types. Hard-to-see colors and fonts can discriminate against people with visual impairments, as can certain file types that don't allow computers to read text out loud for those who need such an accommodation. Read on to learn more about how the ADA may affect your business and how you can test your website for compliance.
Many people with disabilities use assistive technology that enables them to use computers. Some assistive technology involves separate computer programs or devices, such as screen readers, text enlargement software, and computer programs that enable people to control the computer with their voice. Other assistive technology is built into computer operating systems. For example, basic accessibility features in computer operating systems enable some people with low vision to see computer displays by simply adjusting color schemes, contrast settings, and font sizes. Operating systems enable people with limited manual dexterity to move the mouse pointer using key strokes instead of a standard mouse. Many other types of assistive technology are available, and more are still being developed.
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