In recent years, the increasing importance of the Internet has drawn attention to the exclusion of certain parts of society from participating fully in the advantages brought about by the Internet's technological advances. This "digital divide," as some have labeled it, particularly excludes some individuals with disabilities, such as those with visual, auditory, or muscular impairments, who are unable to access many features of today's Internet. Although private efforts encourage websites to adopt voluntary standards to make the Internet more accessible to these individuals, no clear governmental directive specifically aimed at privately-owned websites currently requires broad accessibility for the disabled.
As a result, advocates for the disabled assert that Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA) should be interpreted to apply to private websites, requiring a website to be fully accessible unless the website can demonstrate that providing accessible information would be an undue burden. Other commentators agree that Internet accessibility for the disabled is an important and worthy aim, but argue that the ADA is not the proper means to accomplish that goal. In 2000, the United States House of Representatives heard from advocates of the disabled, industry representatives, and legal experts regarding this very issue, but ultimately Congress has not responded to the questions raised by that hearing.
Until recently this debate regarding whether the ADA should apply to private Internet websites was relatively theoretical. In the last year, however, this discussion moved from academic theory to real-world practicality because two events highlighted the questions surrounding this unresolved debate.
Moberly, Richard E.
"The Americans With Disabilities Act in Cyberspace: Annlving the "Nexus" Approach to Private Internet Websites,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 55:
3, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol55/iss3/7