[thelist] US Judge rules that ADA applies to websites

Judah McAuley judah at wiredotter.com
Mon Sep 11 15:01:40 CDT 2006

Matt Warden wrote:
> I have been following this, but I somehow suspect that this is being
> interpreted too broadly. I am waiting for a legal analysis of this,
> because I really can't see this single decision forcing companies to
> spend what would end up being a HUGE amount of money to make their
> sites ADA compliant.

The ADA was originally passed with the understanding that it was going 
to cost money to do things the right way, but that it was worth it. When 
people had to retrofit and change their buildings, it was a substantial 
cost (still is). As time has gone on, new buildings are built with ADA 
compliance in mind and the cost of compliance has dropped substantially.

I am guessing that the typical cost of redoing a website for ADA 
compliance will be significantly less than the costs associated with 
compliance for physical buildings. And, of course, the ADA preceded the 
advent of most companies websites, so I don't have much sympathy for 
those that chose to ignore the potential liability and not plan for the 

> Specifically, the ruling is currently only applicable to sites which
> enhance the physical side of the business.
> See also: http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/09/09/224204
> Interesting notes in Slashdot's comments:
> This may not establish a precedent:
> http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=196171&cid=16073367

The ruling is a precedent, for the 9th Circuit. The 9th Circuit happens 
to cover all of California, Oregon and Washington, so it is a not 
insignificant precedent either. I agree, however, that the Supreme Court 
will almost certainly end up being the final arbiter of when/how the ADA 
applies to non-physical places of public accomodation.

> This is not a decision but a refusal to dismiss the case:
> http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=196171&cid=16073518

Agreed and I stated as much in my post. However, the ruling is still 
very important. Even if Target now chooses to settle the case and make 
changes to its site instead of trying to defeat the class action suit, 
the ruling will still have legal weight when groups challenge other 
websites under the ADA.

This one ruling may not require every public business website in the US 
to rewrite their site immediately to be Section 508 compliant, but I 
think it's a well deserved wake up call to Corporate America. 
Accessibility is going from an optional "feel good" design decision to 
something that has real impact on the bottom line. I think that's a very 
good thing and represents an opportunity for us, as designers and 
developers, to explain how to make good, responsible, forward looking 
decisions. That benefits everyone, in my opinion.


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