Do internet-only businesses come under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

In theory, absolutely. But it’s taking federal courts a while to get there. Meanwhile, Web3 is coming, and blockchain is already here.

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

--

multi-level indoor shopping mall
Photo by mostafa meraji on Unsplash

Authors note: Because of Medium’s refusal to address its accessibility issues for both authors and readers, I’ve moved my last three years of blogs to Substack. Please sign up there for notices of all new articles. Thank you for your continued readership and support.

Places of public accommodation is a particular phrase defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA identifies a wide range of public accommodations, including restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, amusement parks, private schools, and daycare centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are specifically exempt from the definition of public accommodations. However, most courts have held if the club or organization does something open to the general public and not restricted to members, such as a wedding, the facilities involved do come under the ADA as a public accommodation.

There are two common denominators in the list of public accommodations outlined in the ADA — they are places where financial transactions occur (restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, stores, amusement parks, private schools, daycare centers), or they are places where public money may have been used, and access should be for everyone (museums and libraries)

So why is it so difficult for courts to admit that internet-based versions of public accommodations are, in fact, public accommodations as defined by the ADA?

Introduction

The ADA pre-dates both the commercial use of the internet and the pandemic. Given how tidally-locked the US congressional process currently is, Tom Harkin and others involved in passing the ADA must have had their crystal balls working at 100 % in the late 80s and early 90s when putting together the legislation. They developed the ADA to be expandable, including new technology as it became relevant. Rules that involve implementing technology that didn’t exist when the ADA was passed can be…

--

--

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022. UX Collective Author of the Year 2020. Disability Inclusion SME. Sr Staff Accessibility Architect @ VMware.