Unclear ADA compliance rules on websites flummox dealers

Industry

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Domino’s Pizza in a case involving how accessible its website is to people with disabilities.

That leaves in place an appeals court ruling that held Domino’s website is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law that requires places of public accommodation to make accommodations for people with disabilities. The appeals court said Domino’s must comply even without “a blueprint for compliance with its statutory obligations.”

Dealers, lawyers and compliance experts I interviewed noted that the lack of specific federal regulations governing how a website complies with the ADA has led to uncertainty over next steps. Dealerships are among businesses being sued over the issue.

Accessible websites generally follow a set of industry standards, though they’re not legally binding. Even so, the standards are well-established guidance for businesses looking to improve online accessibility, Chris Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, told me.
In late 2017, the Trump administration withdrew a proposed rules process started under President Obama. The U.S. Department of Justice said last year that the absence of federal digital regulations gives places of public accommodation flexibility in how they comply.

Without clear regulations, a dealer’s compliance strategy likely “depends on what types of customers you reasonably can foresee and what types of technologies can be compatible with assistive techniques for people with disabilities,” said Randy Henrick, a dealership compliance expert.

Jared Allen, spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said it is working to educate members.

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