In the recent years, there has been a significant increase in website accessibility lawsuits where plaintiffs claim that they cannot access websites because they are incompatible with assistive technology. Particularly, the number of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal courts in 2021 jumped 14% over 2020. This March, the U.S. Department of Justice published new guidance on website accessibility under ADA, however, businesses still struggle with understanding their compliance responsibilities.
Despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, many Americans are still returning to the office. Kastle Systems, a large security services provider, reported that an average of 32.1 percent of employees across ten big cities were returning to work as of August 11, 2021. On August 23, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) granted full approval to Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. Polls have shown that the FDA approval will lead to an increase in vaccinations. While many people are not going back to the office, most Americans do have plans to return to work. As a result, employers are working to create return-to-work plans, while employees are left wondering about the extent of their rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) covers employers with 15 or more employees, including government employers, agencies, and labor organizations. The ADA imposes restrictions on the amount and type of medical information that an employer may obtain from an employee or applicant in order to prevent discrimination on the basis of a disability. The ADA has been dissected to better understand the regulations that govern the return to the workplace.
As COVID-19 is back on the rise throughout the United States and various vaccine trials are occurring, employers are beginning to consider COVID-19 vaccine mandates for all their employees. While no vaccine has been approved yet, predictions point to a possible release by the end of the year. The vaccine is not expected to be readily available until mid-2021 for the general public, which makes it difficult for most employers to mandate vaccination at least until 2021. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has yet to release guidance on COVID-19 vaccine so it is best to consider guidelines discussing flu vaccines for now. Although there are necessary accommodations due to federal legislation, vaccine programs are permissible.
Over the past year, restaurants and retailers have had to improve access to their physical locations, websites, and mobile applications to ensure that they are accessible to all individuals and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Now, restaurants and retailers may have another issue that they need to grapple with in order to comply with the ADA – including braille on gift cards.
The World Wide Web Consortium (“W3C”) is a collaborative community that develops standards for the Internet. One of W3C’s goals is to make the web accessible to everyone, regardless of an individual’s accessibility needs. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that the electronic and information technology of federal agencies are accessible to people with disabilities, whether they are employees or members of the public. W3C publishes the Web Content Accessibility Guide (WCAG), which addresses how to create accessible websites. The WCAG was used by the U.S. Access Board to create standards for Section 508. Recent cases like Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. reveal the need to not only comply with these laws and regulations, but to adopt a culture that goes above and beyond the minimum.
On October 2, 2017, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition to Emmette Magee (“Magee”), a blind man, who claimed that the vending machines violate Title III under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Coca-Cola vending machines, similar to other modern vending machines, are “self-service and fully automated machines that dispense bottles.” These machines also include credit and debit card processing, and payment from smartphones, but require the consumer to select a beverage using a number pad associated with the product in the vending machine. Magee, the petitioner, claimed that these vending machines lacked any meaningful accommodation for use by the blind, because the machines contained an “entirely visual interface.”