How is the Department of Justice Addressing Website and ICT Accessibility?
In light of the critical role that the Internet and information and communication technology (ICT) play in contemporary society, including in the employment context, the federal government recognizes that access to information and electronic technologies is a civil right and a vital employment issue for individuals with disabilities.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken the position that title II (state and local governments) and title III (public accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers Internet website access, mobile applications, and other forms of ICT.
“The Department first articulated its interpretation that the ADA applies to public accommodations’ websites over 20 years ago. This interpretation is consistent with the ADA’s title III requirements that goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally accessible to people with disabilities.”
DOJ is one of the lead federal agencies that administers and enforces the ADA. They have implemented a series of rules since 1991, and in 2003 published guidance on Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities. As of February 2020, DOJ has entered into 175 settlement agreements addressing ICT accessibility. Through these agreements, employers and other covered entities (e.g., state and local governmental entities and public accommodations), can understand DOJ priorities related to website and ICT accessibility and how to proactively comply with existing rules and guidance. While DOJ settlements only apply to the parties involved, they do offer insights into potential actions that DOJ might exact in similar situations.
Below are key areas summarized from the DOJ settlement agreements concerning the obligation of employers and other covered entities to make employment opportunities and related activities accessible to individuals with disabilities.