On August 11, 2016 the Department of Justice finally issued its regulations implementing the expanded definition of disability contained in the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments. The actual content of the regulations, which apply to Titles II and III of the ADA, will already be familiar to most businesses because they are intended to be consistent with the EEOC’s 2011 regulations implementing the 2008 ADAA for Title I. Equally important, they appear after eight long years of lawsuits brought under the 2008 ADAA in which the courts and litigants had to wrestle with the meaning of the statute. More
By Richard Hunt in ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA FHA Legislation, ADA Internet, ADA Internet Web, ADA Miniature Horses, ADA regulations, ADA rulemaking, ADA service animals, DOJ, Uncategorized Tags: ADA service animals, miniature horses, service animals
“The Arizona Legislature altered laws this year that govern those service animals, specifically allowing businesses, especially restaurants, to tell an owner the animal must be removed if it is out of control or not housebroken.”
(Click here for complete article). This is interesting because the “altered law” does not appear to change anything. Under both the ADA and its Arizona equivalent businesses have always been entitled to exclude service animals that are out of control or not housebroken. Other details in the new law are also consistent with existing federal regulations concerning service animals. More
My colleague William Goren (see his blogs at www.williamgoren.com/blog) passed along a recent interview with Daniel Goldstein (http://www.bna.com/fighting-accessible-websites-n57982065991) that shows, I think, a serious disconnect is between the disabilities rights community and ordinary American businesses with respect to web accessibility.
I’ll start with what Mr. Goldstein said about making a web site accessible. He said: “It’s pretty easy to resolve most of these barriers [to access]” and “the expense is usually small.” His examples of common problems including things like failure to properly use the “H1 tag” or to write code that properly moves the “focus” of a web page. “Pretty easy” and “small expense” are words whose meaning depends on the business involved. This blog was set up by myself using a WordPress template. I didn’t write any code, and I couldn’t find an “H1 tag” to save my life. I do know, because a web programmer helped me look at it, that this single page is created by about 1000 lines of computer code. If that code is wrong, fixing it would not be “pretty easy” for me or any of the tens of thousands of small businesses that use WordPress or similar template based web design tools. More
The Department of Justice has once again delayed regulations that would purport to set standards for web accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is not the first time DOJ has kicked the can a little further down the road with respect to web access regulations. The proposed regulations have been floating around since 2010 with no sign of when they might be finalized. Some lawyers fret about how the delay will affect businesses (see, Justice Department Delays Web Accessibility Regulations For At Least Three More Years, Leaving Businesses in Turmoil) while disability rights advocates continue to assert that, despite the language of the ADA, it does require accessible web sites (See, Fall 2015 Update: More Delay for DOJ Web Regulations). What’s a business to do? The answer is simple – find a web developer. More
By richardhunt in ADA, ADA FHA General, ADA regulations, ADA rulemaking, DOJ Tags: Department of Justice, DOJ, FHA ADA litigation "statute of limitations" strategy DOJ "attorney general" enforcement, private litigants
This week two ADA writers I follow, Marc Dubin and William Goren, looked at the problem of telling just what the ADA requires. Both concluded that in some respect the only way to know was to look at the latest private settlements between the Department of Justice and various businesses it investigates. You can know the statute, you can know the regulations, you can read the various guidances, but if you don’t keep track of what the DOJ is doing when it settles its private investigations you really don’t know what to do in many cases. The National Association of the Deaf, an advocacy group, recently wrote on the requirement of closed captioning in audio and audiovisual presentations (nad.org). With a few exceptions governed by statutes other than the ADA the best the N.A.D. could say was that closed captioning “may” be required or that the situation is uncertain.
This uncertainty is great for lawyers and consultants. Like most folks in the ADA and FHA consulting business Marc, William and I follow the DOJ and HUD press releases that announce their settlements, and receive updates on their regulatory initiatives. For businesses, on the other hand, it stinks. Not only is a business required to constantly pay consultants to help it comply with the ADA, it will frequently be told by the consultant that the only answer comes from reading the tea leaves and guessing what the DOJ’s position will be when and if it finally publishes a definitive regulation. Even that guess comes with a warning: the DOJ’s position in a private settlement is not binding on private litigants or the courts, so doing what DOJ appears to want won’t help a business that is sued by a disabled individual.
This uncertainty comes in part because of a regulatory process that seems hopelessly bogged down. Web accessibility regulations have been in the making for years, but the issue is still being studied. The current 2010 Standards for accessibility were originally published in the 1990’s and parts were not in effect until 2013. Haste is never good when faced with complex problems of accessibility, but when the wheels of justice grind too slowly one has to ask whether there is a systemic problem.
More important, every time the Department of Justice delays the promulgation or implementation of a regulation it creates uncertainty and expense for business. Remember, the requirements of the ADA statute apply regardless of the existence of regulations, and when the DOJ does not act private litigants have free reign to argue that it means whatever appears in their interest. DOJ itself has the same freedom, for it can change its own policies for prosecution and settlement without any oversight by the courts.
Why the DOJ has decided to act through private settlements rather than regulation is an interesting subject for speculation, but there is little doubt that the only people who benefit are lawyers and consultants. The disabled suffer the delay in promulgation and implementation of regulations that may benefit them while businesses suffer the uncertainty and expense that come from never knowing quite how to spend their money on accessibility. Although it may be impossible given the bureaucratic love of delay found in most government agencies, reform should be on the agenda for both Congress and the Executive branches.