Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a significant law passed in the United States in 1990. It aims to prohibit discrimination, safeguard the rights of individuals with disabilities, and provide them with equal opportunities in various aspects of life.
It is important to note that the ADA was ratified prior to the rapid advancement of technology, so it does not explicitly mention the internet. However, in the 30 years since its enactment, the ADA has been applied to websites and mobile applications multiple times in recognition of their status as vital public spaces that should be accessible to everyone.
The ADA is divided into five sections known as “titles”. Title III, covering public accommodations provided by businesses and private entities, is the section most commonly interpreted as applying to online environments. Individuals with disabilities must be given equal opportunities to access or benefit from any programs, goods, and services offered by businesses or non-profit organisations.
Additionally, Title V of the ADA supports and protects any person with a disability who wants to uphold their civil rights, such as in the case an individual seeks legal recourse against a business that has violated the ADA. In 2021, more than 11,400 people filed an ADA Title III lawsuit citing a website or mobile application was not digitally accessible.
No specific guidelines for internet accessibility are named under the ADA. However, many courts and regulatory agencies – including the United States Department of Justice – have referred to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 as a reliable framework for achieving accessibility compliance. The WCAG provide detailed technical guidelines and success criteria that organisations can use to ensure their websites and mobile applications are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all, including people with disabilities.