Are you legally required to make your website accessible to people with disabilities?

As we’ve emphasized before, accessibility is an important consideration for your website. According to Census Bureau statistics, over 18% of Americans have some type of disability, so to limit access to your website to a substantial portion of the population would be unwise. Soon, however, accessibility considerations could be more important than ever as a blind man has filed a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza because he couldn’t place an order online. The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether or not they’ll hear the case, but regardless of their decision, the fact that the case is even up for consideration highlights the need for an accessible website.

What is this court case about?

The lawsuit asserts that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires a website or mobile-phone application that offers goods or services to the public must satisfy discrete accessibility requirements with respect to individuals with disabilities. According to the Cato Institute, Title III lawsuits rose about 30% between 2017 and 2018, primarily because the vagueness of Title III has led to what they call “regulation by litigation.” It’s important to note that the last ruling on the case was in favor of the plaintiff, so if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, that ruling will stand and serve as precedent for the future.

How could this case affect my website?

Based on the case’s wording, any website with an online store would be required to “satisfy… accessibility requirements.” The case doesn’t specifically state which requirements must be followed, so a ruling in favor of the plaintiff would likely lead to further litigation to provide clarity. However, The A11Y Project provides generally-accepted accessibility guidelines to help you know what you need to do. From large tap targets to color contrast to keyboard-only navigation, A11Y seeks to address as many accessibility guidelines as possible to ensure people with a variety of disabilities can still access the Internet without difficulty.

We’ve shared some tips to help you too. Make sure your website is easy to read for people using screen readers. Ensure your content isn’t difficult to distinguish for people with colorblindness or limited vision. If you publish videos on your website, consider using captions to aid those with hearing impairments.

From a legal standpoint, the most important thing you may need to do is ensure your online store is accessible to blind users if you have a store. We’d expect WooCommerce will issue updates should the Supreme Court not hear the case and rule in favor of Domino’s. But even if the law doesn’t require you to make your website more accessible, it’s always a good idea to ensure as many people can use your site as possible.