WASHINGTON – The National Retail Federation is supporting legislation that would establish standards clarifying what is required to make websites and mobile apps accessible to the visually impaired under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Online Accessibility Act, introduced by Representatives Ted Budd, R-N.C., and Lou Correa, D-Calif., would expand the ADA’s coverage to include consumer-facing websites and apps operated by private entities.
Those that are in substantial compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines established by the Web Accessibility Institute or offer equivalent access through an alternative method would be deemed to be in compliance with the ADA, but the Justice Department would be required to issue regulations spelling out definitions and details.
“Retailers want to serve all customers, and that includes those who are blind or visually impaired,” said Stephanie Martz, NRF chief administrative officer and general counsel. “This bill makes it clear that the ADA applies to websites and requires that businesses make their websites accessible, but it also sets clear rules on what that means.”
Martz added that this should put an end to frivolous lawsuits that have diverted resources that could be better used to make sure online products and services are easily available to everyone. Earlier this year, Furniture Today reported on the increase in the number of lawsuits due to inaccessible websites.
Equal access to the Internet is increasingly important with the rapid growth of online commerce and particularly the spike in online shopping seen during the pandemic. This bill will provide clarity that is long overdue, according to the NRF.
The Justice Department would be required to establish a dispute resolution process, and violators could be fined $20,000 for a first offense and up to $50,000 for subsequent offenses. Private lawsuits would be allowed but only after administrative remedies are exhausted.