top of mind
Websites: Public Accommodations?
Companies face increasing pressure to make sites accessible.
Two years ago a Massachusetts court ruled that Netflix, the giant video streaming service, is a place
of public accommodation under the
Americans with Disabilities Act because
its website is “analogous” to a brick and
mortar store. A California court that
same year came to a different conclusion,
saying the video service isn’t a place of
physical accommodation because it has
no physical location.
Despite the different rulings, Netflix
entered into an agreement with the
National Association of the Deaf to phase
in a process for captioning its videos for
people with hearing impairment. Target,
the giant retailer, has also been subject to
a lawsuit to make its website ADA com-
pliant for people with visual and hearing
Although many questions remain
about whether websites are a “place of
public accommodation” under the ADA,
including whether a website operator
must also have a physical presence to
be subject to the law, these cases show
that pressure is building on companies
to make the information they provide
on their websites accessible. The U.S.
Department of Justice has issued an advance notice of proposed rule-making on
this issue and has taken the position that
websites are places of public accommodation. You can be certain this trend will
impact real estate.
Real estate websites provide consumers instant access to listings, home tours,
and information concerning the surrounding community. It’s estimated that
more than 90 percent of consumers start
their real estate journey on the Web. Four
sites alone— realtor.com®, Zillow, Trulia,