The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law enacted in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It is a civil rights law that ensures people with disabilities have the same opportunities and access as everyone else. This includes access to public accommodations such as restaurants, stores, and government buildings, as well as access to employment and telecommunications. In recent years, the ADA has been applied to website accessibility, as the internet has become an increasingly important tool for everyday life.

The ADA applies to website accessibility in two main ways. First, the ADA requires that places of public accommodation provide equal access to individuals with disabilities. This means that websites that are considered places of public accommodation, such as those for banks, online retailers, and government agencies, must be accessible to people with disabilities. Second, the ADA also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. This means that if an employee with a disability needs an accessible website to perform their job duties, their employer must provide one.

There is no specific language in the ADA that addresses website accessibility, as the law was enacted before the widespread use of the internet. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued guidance that makes it clear that the ADA applies to website accessibility. In 2010, the DOJ issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on website accessibility, which sought input from the public on how to make websites accessible to people with disabilities. The ANPRM noted that the internet has become an essential tool for accessing goods, services, and information, and that websites must be accessible to people with disabilities to ensure equal access.

While the DOJ has not yet issued a final rule on website accessibility, there are existing standards that provide guidance on how to make websites accessible. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that provide a framework for making websites accessible. The WCAG are divided into three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA. Level AA is considered the minimum level of accessibility that websites should meet to be considered accessible to people with disabilities.

There are several key principles of the WCAG that are important for website accessibility. These include:

  1. Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  2. Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
  3. Understandable: Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
  4. Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

In order to meet the WCAG, websites must be designed and developed with accessibility in mind. This includes using accessible design principles, such as providing alternative text for images and ensuring that text is easy to read. It also includes using accessible technology, such as screen readers and keyboard navigation, and testing websites with people with disabilities to ensure that they are usable.

In conclusion, the ADA applies to website accessibility in two main ways: ensuring equal access to places of public accommodation and providing reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. While there is no specific language in the ADA that addresses website accessibility, the DOJ has made it clear that websites must be accessible to people with disabilities to ensure equal access. The WCAG provide a framework for making websites accessible, and websites must be designed and developed with accessibility in mind to meet these guidelines. By making websites accessible, we can ensure that everyone has equal access to information and services online.