Capitol Correspondence - 09.24.18

6 Senators Question DOJ About ADA Website Accessibility

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In a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), 6 U.S. Senators requested guidance on website accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Senators are: Chuck Grassley (R-IA) , Mike Rounds (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joni Ernst (R-IA).

The letter states:

“But for the ADA to be effective, it must be clear so that law abiding Americans can faithfully follow the law. Right now it is not clear whether the ADA applies to websites. This leaves businesses and property owners unsure of what standards, if any, govern their online services. To date, the Department has not issued guidance or regulations to provide clarity, and conflicting court opinions have created even more confusion. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are exploiting this opportunity for personal gain and sending threatening demand letters and filing hundreds of lawsuits against small and medium-sized businesses across the country- from banks and credit unions to retailers and restaurants.

More ADA website accessibility lawsuits were filed in the first half of this year than in all of 2017, which witnessed over 800 such suits. Statistics recently released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts demonstrate that, more broadly, filings of cases raising certain ADA claims increased 521 percent from 2005 to 2017. Unless the Department acts, this trend will only continue and even more lawsuits and demand letters will follow. Businesses would rather invest in making sure they can serve their disabled customers, instead of pay money to avoid a shakedown by trial lawyers who do not have the interests of the disabled at heart. The Department should waste no time in resolving this uncertainty, which will no doubt increase accessibility while curbing unnecessary and abusive litigation.”