By Adam E. Gersh, Guest Contributor
You probably already know that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to “places of public accommodation,” like hotels and restaurants. What you might not know is that the ADA probably applies to your Crowdfunding website, or will soon.
Courts have held the ADA applies to websites that supply products or services, reasoning that websites, like buildings, can be “places of public accommodation.” For example, Netflix.com and Peapod reportedly settled cases with the Department of Justice, while Home Depot and Target have faced claims relating to website accessibility. On the other hand, websites that are merely informational, like Mark’s blog, are less likely to be required to comply with accessibility standards.
If you’re operating a Crowdfunding portal then everything you do is online, making you a lot more like Netflix than like a blog. That’s particularly true of Title III Funding Portals, where everything has to happen online by law, but it’s probably true for Title II and Title IV portals as well. Therefore, while there have been no rulings or cases, and the law around the ADA and websites remains unsettled, we can feel pretty confident that the ADA or its state-law equivalents will apply.
How can you get on the right side of the law? The industry has developed a set of standards known as WCAG 2.0 – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which include a set of recommendations to make website coding changes with accessibility in mind. WCAG2.0 is an industry standard for non-governmental entities and, most importantly, it is the standard the Department of Justice has used as a measuring stick in the cases brought to date. WCAG2.0 actually has three tiers of accessibility standards but, until the Department of Justice issues new rules or the courts produce clearer rulings, it’s not clear which tier will apply to Crowdfunding portals.
Adam E. Gersh, Esq. is a shareholder at Flaster Greenberg PC and a member of our Employment Practices Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (856) 382-2246.