Business owners should be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law bans discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It also requires business owners and public places to make reasonable accommodations, so everyone has equal access to these areas and services.

In the past, the ADA standards generally applied to physical places open to the public. However, a recent case found that these standards also extend to the internet.

Websites are a public accommodation, court says

Cheryl Thurston filed a lawsuit against the owner of The Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, Midvale Corp., back in 2017. Thurston is blind, and when she attempted to use the restaurant’s website, she found it was not accessible with her screen reading technology.

So, she filed a legal claim under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. This law, like the ADA, states that everyone is equal, and therefore entitled to equal:

  • Accommodations
  • Advantages
  • Facilities
  • Privileges
  • Services

Considering these factors, the Second District Court of Appeals agreed that the restaurant violated the ADA and the Unruh Act.

The advancement of technology played a large role in the Court’s decision

Because of the significant advancements technology has made in the last decade, almost all of the services listed in the Unruh Act apply to the internet. After all, almost everyone uses some type of technology every day, whether it is on their smartphone, tablet or computer. Technology is a part of daily life now.

Essentially, since the internet is used so widely by the public, the Court agrees that it is a public accommodation. Therefore, it should also be accessible to everyone.

What does this mean for businesses?

The decision of this case will significantly increase the scrutiny that businesses face regarding accessibility. So, business owners should:

  1. Take great care to comply with the state and federal standards outlined by the ADA and the Unruh Act; and
  2. Review their websites to ensure they are accessible.

That way, they can avoid legal penalties that this precedent could create for the future.

Remember, these standards do not only apply to consumers but employees as well. It is necessary to review internal resources to make sure they are accessible to employees.