DOJ again delays website accessibility regulations

A blue graphic with the letters http://www signifying the internet
Internet Access

The Department of Justice announced November 19 that it would put off proposing new website regulations for places of public accommodation until after the completion of President Obama’s presidency, much to the disappointment of disability advocates and business groups alike.

The Department of Justice first issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making in July 2010, indicating it was developing rules for clarifying the role of the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990 before the modern internet age, in regard to websites. No proposal was ever advanced.

The latest announcement, which came in the agency’s most recent Statement of Regulatory Priorities, indicated that the  DOJ would move forward with regulations next year for state government agencies, under Title II of the ADA, but delay until 2018 regulations for private businesses under Title III.

The National Federation of the Blind, which has previously sued Netflix and Scribd over their websites, slammed the Obama Administration for the move.

“The delay in this regulation suggests that someone in this administration is indifferent to the rights of disabled individuals in having the same economic and educational opportunities as everybody else,” NFB Attorney Daniel Goldstein told Bloomberg BNA.

With the delay, the state of the ADA’s applicability to the internet remains in flux.

Courts are split on the question of whether websites qualify as “places of public accommodation,” and thus are subject to Title III regulations requiring businesses to make services accessible to people who are blind and deaf, among other categories of protected individuals.

Netflix, like many other businesses, has argued that it is not covered under the ADA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the only appellate court to address the issue, agreed with this interpretation.