January 17, 2019

Appeals court: ADA applies to websites, mobile apps

gavelIn a lawsuit filed against Domino's Pizza, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements are applicable to websites and mobile applications.

"The Ninth Circuit upheld the Justice Department's longstanding position that ADA protections apply to websites, but provided no further clarity on what that entails. Additionally, the court went a step further by determining the ADA also applies to mobile apps," said Carrie Hunt, NAFCU's executive vice president of government affairs and general counsel. "NAFCU will continue to urge the DOJ to provide guidance and clarity on the issue." The court did not decide whether the private industry standard WCAG 2.0 constituted compliance with the statute.

While NAFCU and its members strongly support the protections of the ADA, it believes that these efforts are best achieved through clear guidance and standards for website compliance, not through meritless and costly lawsuits. The Domino's case does not address the issue of standing.

NAFCU has been active on this issue over the past year and has engaged with the Justice Department and Congress to provide guidance. In September, a group of senators – led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa – sent a NAFCU-sought letter to the Justice Department urging that it provide clarity on this issue.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a dismissal of a lawsuit against the Department of Labor Federal Credit Union (DOLFCU) related to website accessibility standards. The court determined that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring the lawsuit as he did not fall within the credit union's field of membership and could not become a member.

The Ninth Circuit did not address credit union-specific issues related to field of membership in the Domino's decision, but did determine that ADA liability does not violate the 14th Amendment, Domino's had received fair notice that its website and app must comply with ADA, and that while private industry standards could be an equitable remedy, the trial court will have to determine if the website is compliant.

NAFCU will continue to monitor ADA litigation and how these recent court decisions could impact outstanding lawsuits. A map of the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction is available here.