July 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Congratulations to the disabled advocates and disability rights organizations who fought, organized, and marched to get this law past. (One protest was the March 12, 1990 “Capitol Crawl” shown in the image accompanying this post taken by Tom Olin.)
The ADA was passed just one year after Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web. In 1990 when then-president George Bush signed the law there were exactly zero websites. Two years later there were ten. And today? Over 1,786,367, 115. [Website numbers found here.]
Because of the brilliance of the disability organizers and bill drafters, the ADA has provided a strong foundation for advancing accessibility in the digital world. Sweeping provisions designed to ensure full participation for disabled people in all aspects of society work to ensure participation in a connected world of websites, mobile applications and other technologies.
As early as 1996 the United States Department of Justice recognized the importance of web accessibility. Read DOJ Civil Rights head Deval Patrick’s 1996 letter to Senator Tom Harkin on web access. In 2000 the DOJ told an appellate court that “Commercial business providing services solely over the internet is subject to the ada’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of disability.”
And in 2000 I helped negotiate the country’s very first web accessibility lawsuit between Bank of America and its blind customers and the California Council of the Blind. Eight years later the Target website case settled, and four years later there was a favorable court order in the Netflix captioning case.
For this post I’ve gathered some of the more recent court orders and settlements that advance digital accessibility as well as some pending cases we’re following.
Thank you to the ADA (and the disability community that made it possible) for establishing such a strong legal foundation for digital inclusion.
- Jump to a Simplified Summary of this Article, a feature of this website designed to meet WCAG Success Criteria 3.1.5 (a WCAG 2.1 AAA Reading Level requirement).
Recent Digital Accessibility Settlements and Court Orders
- Patreon and the American Council of the Blind announce Patreon’s digital accessibility commitment. Read the Patreon web and mobile accessibility press release. Read the Patreon settlement agreement, reached in Structured Negotiation. (July 2020)
- Amazon agrees to make remote customer service associate roles available to blind employees. Read the National Federation of the Blind Amazon Press Release. Settles a lawsuit filed by blind Michigan resident and the NFB. (July 2020)
- IRS to change processes to make tax notices accessible. Read the tax notice accessibility press release. Settles a lawsuit filed by the NFB in 2019. (July 2020)
- New York State agrees to make absentee ballots accessible. Read the NY voting case press release. Settles a lawsuit filed in 2020. (June 2020)
- California court rules that the website of a credit union is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read the court decision in the San Diego Credit Union case. (June 2020)
- College Board agrees to provide needed accommodations to blind and deafblind AP test takers. Read the AP Test access settlement agreement. Read the press release announcing the complaint filed by the NFB with the Department of Education. (May 2020)
- Court orders New York Governor to provide sign language interpreters during Corona Virus news Updates. Read the New York Interpreter legal complaint. Read the news story about the judge’s order in the New York sign language interpreter case.
- US Social Security Administration agrees to make its kiosks across the country accessible to blind people. Read the accessible kiosk press release. Settles a 2017 lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the blind. (March 2020)
Unfortunately, I cannot report on settlements or court orders from most of the web accessibility cases filed because of a lack of transparency on how those cases are litigated. I wrote about the ethics of those cases a year ago this week in an article titled Ethics In The Digital Accessibility Legal Space: AdA Enforcement Cases Or Something Else?.
A year later I’m still concerned about those cases. If the ADA was a person I’d apologize for how my profession in those cases has used the law in ways that don’t put disabled people first. Fortunately, the ADA is strong enough to withstand improper treatment. Its continued strength and value for digital accessibility is clearly evident in the cases above.
Pending Digital Accessibility Cases I’m Following
- Lawsuit filed against Duke University for inaccessible digital content, platforms, and course material. Read the Duke University lawsuit filing press release. Read the Duke University digital accessibility legal complaint. (June 2020)
- California 66 million dollar website case alleging a vendor made a false claim about a website sold to the California Parks system. Read the post on LFLegal about this false claims act case, with links to court orders and initial press release. Read the Court’s Order refusing to throw the 66 million dollar website case out of court. (Case filed May 2019; Judge’s order November 2019)
- Case against Walmart for inaccessible self-check kiosks. Read the Walmart self-check case filing press release. Read the post on LFLegal tracking this and other kiosk cases.
- The case against Domino’s Pizza that went to the US Supreme Court is still pending back in the District Court. Read the post on LFLegal about the Supreme Court Order. Read the second post on LFLegal about how people misunderstand the Domino’s case. (2019)
- The lawsuit against the Winn-Dixie grocery chain is still pending. It is on appeal to the 11th circuit after a trial judge ruled that Winn-Dixie violated the ADA by maintaining an inaccessible website. It was the first web accessibility case to go to trial under the ADA. Read the 2017 post on LFLegal about the Winn-Dixie trial. Read the 2017 post on LFLegal titled “Winn-Dixie wasn’t paying attention.”
- The lawsuit filed in 2019 against Blue Cross Blue Shield by a blind retired federal employee who could not access his health benefits information is still pending. Read the press release about lawsuit regarding access to health benefits information.
Happy 30th anniversary to the Americans with Disabilities Act. May you continue to protect the rights of disabled people for full inclusion in the digital world for decades to come.