Brick-and-mortar businesses understand the need to be ADA compliant, but did you realize your real estate website must meet ADA compliance requirements as well? Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals in any place of public accommodation. And the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has made it clear this includes websites.
Do You Have a Parking Spot on Your Website for the Disabled?
According to ADA rules, websites must accommodate individuals with vision, hearing, and other impairments. Though no one had websites in mind when the 1990 Act was written, the DOJ has argued such regulations should be interpreted to keep pace with changing technology. Federal Judicial districts, however, are split. As the DOJ is the one walking with the big enforcement stick, their interpretation is taking precedence.
Confusion Over (Lack of) Rules
The DOJ solicited public comments on upcoming rules back in 2010 – but none have been forthcoming. They are now anticipated to be made public by 2018. However, this hasn’t stopped the DOJ from enforcing such ADA rules today. In a recent complaint, H&R Block was found non-compliant after 2 deaf plaintiffs were unable to complete tax returns resulting from the company’s lack of assistive technology (screen reading software and refreshable braille displays).
The Post-Settlement Understanding
As brick and mortars aren’t expected to supply wheelchairs, but an environment (ramps and widened doors) where assistive tech can be used, websites where business is conducted are expected to provide an environment where assistive tech (screen readers, braille displays) will work.
In the interim, NAR President Tom Salomone has contacted Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta noting the uncertain state of the law, and how it has encouraged demand letters, lawsuits, and confusion in the industry. Regardless, firms are advised to start looking at their real estate websites from a different perspective.
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