ADA Compliance and Winery Websites
In October 2018 wineries in New York alerted us to an issue regarding access to winery websites and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One of the provisions of the ADA requires that those with vision impairments have access to the same facilities as everyone else. A law firm in New York City has initiated lawsuits with New York wineries due to lack of access. WineAmerica recommends that all wineries make sure their websites are accessible for those individuals with vision impairments. In order to correctly do this we do recommend wineries consult both a lawyer and an IT professional. The regulations are not clear about what is actually legally required, but we recommend wineries follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The ADA does not clearly discuss website access, but the act does make it illegal for any public or private entity to provide goods and services to the public that are not also accessible to individuals with disabilities. In the lawsuits regarding website access, the plaintiffs are claiming that disability-based discrimination that applies to a place of “public accommodation” also applies to a website that may also advertise to that same place.
The Justice Department under the Obama Administration had established guidelines for websites to be ADA compliant, but the Trump Administration withdrew those guidelines in December 2017. The Justice Department has recommended that websites follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that will conform with the World Wide Web Consortium standards.
Member Only Webinar
On May 14th, WineAmerica partnered with the law firm Seyfarth Shaw to hold a webinar for our members on the ADA lawsuit issue. Members of the Seyfarth Shaw Disability Access Defense Team gave a presentation that helped WineAmerica members understand:
· What it means for a website to be accessible
· The legal bases and theories driving these lawsuits
· The current litigation and regulatory landscape
· Strategies for responding to a website accessibility lawsuit
· What businesses should be doing now about their websites to mitigate risk.
In early October the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Domino’s Pizza after a federal appellate court ruled that a blind customer can sue the chain under the Americans with Disabilities Act after he couldn’t fully use its website through screen-reading software. Domino’s had asked the Supreme Court to rule that the ADA didn’t apply to websites and apps, arguing the 1990 law predated the modern internet and that there were no firm rules businesses could comply with to make their online assets accessible.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that since Domino’s is a place of public accommodation, it’s required under the law to provide “auxiliary aids and services” making visual materials accessible to visually impaired customers. The court found that applies to the chain’s website and app, even though they’re often used outside of Domino’s restaurants.
The Ninth Circuit’s decision will give legal precedent for continuation of these lawsuits.
To learn more about ADA Web Compliance, please visit these sites:
This document does not constitute legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only.