The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities in three main areas.
- Title I: Employment
- Title II: Public entities, including state and local government and their departments and agencies
- Title III: Places of public accommodations and private entities
Currently the ADA does not define a technical standard for determining if something is accessible or not. The ADA simply ensures all users can have equitable access. They are currently considering adopting technical standards equivalent to WCAG 2 Level AA conformance.
Title I of the ADA ensures that people with disabilities will not be discriminated against in the work place and will receive accommodations to perform their jobs when necessary. Web accessibility comes into play here because if you have an employee who has a disability and must interact with the Web or other electronic content as part of their job, you as the employer must provide the level of access that the person needs in order to perform their job.
Title II of the ADA ensures that people with disabilities will not be discriminated against in programs run by State and local governments. If you are a school or a government, the Web resources that you make available to participants in your program or to the general public must be accessible.
Title III of the ADA ensures that people with disabilities will not be discriminated against in places of public accommodation, such as brick-and-mortar businesses. There are mixed rulings from different US Courts of Appeals as to whether a Web site constitutes a place of public accommodation since it does not exist as a physical space. As a result, in some parts of the country Title III requirements apply to private businesses and other places of public accommodations, and in other parts of the county they don’t.
So does Title III apply to your part of the country? That’s the wrong question to ask given recent statements by Federal agencies and actions they are currently taking, which are outlined in the following sections. If you do want to know the details of the applicability of Title III to places of public accommodation in your state, please contact your local U.S. Court of Appeals or a good lawyer.