The goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to ensure equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The ADA has five sections, but Title II and Title III are the most relevant for video and web accessibility.
If your enterprise organization produces the following videos, or has received a request to make videos accessible, then the laws apply to you.
Title II prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local and state level including employment in public entities. Under Title II, disabled employees must not be blocked from performing responsibilities due to inaccessible processes or procedures.
Title III applies to places of public accommodation. Under Title III, when it comes to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation, no individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards.
Places of public accommodation is a term that has been extended to online businesses via lawsuits. As the ADA was passed before the Internet, Title III has traditionally been applied to physical structures like wheel chair ramps. However, recent case law has extended the ADA to online businesses and web and video accessibility, expanding its reach across industries. There have been several lawsuits in the last decade regarding web and video accessibility in enterprise.
In 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued FedEx Ground for violating the ADA by discriminating against a large number of deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants by failing to provide captions on their mandatory training videos. This case is still pending, but the court denied FedEx’s motion to dismiss
In 2015, Amazon struck a deal with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to ensure their library of over 190,000 TV shows and movies will be captioned. This agreement would apply to Amazon’s archive of Instant Video that wasn’t yet captioned. In addition, all new Amazon Prime video offerings will also have closed captions.
In 2006, the National Federation of the Blind sued Target.com for violating the ADA by having a website that was inaccessible to blind users. This case was one of the first that challenged the ADA’s application to websites. Target and the NFB settled in 2008, with the court stating that the “litigation extended important areas of disability law into an emerging form of electronic commerce that promises to grow in importance.” This case was an important step in extending the ADA to the web.
Winn-Dixie – a grocery store and pharmacy chain – was found to have an inaccessible website. After being sued, the court was faced with the question of whether the website should be subject to the ADA as a service of a public accommodation. The DOJ dissected each word of the regulations, and in June 2017, the court came to a decision. The final say was that the ADA doesn’t only refer to the physical access to a place of public accommodation, but includes access to the web and online services as well.
in 2019, Echoing a recent trend in other states, for the first time a lawsuit has been filed in Minnesota alleging that websites belonging to a county and couple of cities, claiming their websites violated both state and federal disability law.