United States: First Federal Court Ruling That Retailers Website Violates Title III Of The ADA

Since our August 2016 article on the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA") to the Internet, litigation involving website violations of the ADA has been on the rise. To date, however, there remains a split among the circuit courts with regard to whether Title III of the ADA applies to websites. To further complicate the issue, the federal government has not yet formally adopted a set standard for website accessibility.

Last month, the first trial in the history of the ADA involving an allegedly inaccessible website was held. On June 12, 2017, after a two-day, non-jury trial, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Florida ruled in a case of first impression that a supermarket chain's website violated a visually impaired Florida man's rights under Title III of the ADA. While this "first impression" decision is not binding on other federal courts, it is significant for several reasons: (1) it is the first decision to hold that a public accommodation violated Title III of the ADA by having an inaccessible website; (2) the proposed injunction adopts the dated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 as the accessibility standard the supermarket chain must meet to make its website accessible; (3) the court did not consider the $250,000 estimated cost (to supermarket chain) of making the website accessible to be unduly burdensome; and (4) the court held that the supermarket chain was responsible for the entire website's lack of accessibility, even though third-party vendors operated parts of the website.

Factual Background
Plaintiff Juan Carlos Gil is legally blind and has cerebral palsy. Mr. Gil is able to use a computer with access technology software (such as "Job Access With Speech" or "JAWS") because he cannot see the computer screen. Mr. Gil has patronized the supermarket chain's stores and pharmacies due to their competitive prices. The supermarket website offers, among other features, a store locator, digital coupons that link to a customer's reward card, and the ability to refill prescriptions online. Approximately 90% of the retailer's website was not accessible to Mr. Gil with his screen reading software. Due to the lack of website accessibility, Mr. Gil would refill his prescriptions in store but felt uncomfortable because he had to tell the pharmacist what he needed, in earshot of others. Additionally, Mr. Gil's only way of obtaining coupons was to have a friend read the coupons aloud from a newspaper.

The issues in this case were (1) whether the supermarket chain's website is subject to the ADA as a service of a public accommodation in and of itself; (2) whether Mr. Gil was denied the full and equal enjoyment of the retailer's goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations because of his disability; and (3) whether the requested modifications to the supermarket chain's website are reasonable and readily achievable.

Title III of the ADA and the Internet
Title III of the ADA prohibits the owner or operator of a public accommodation from discriminating "on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation..." 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). The ADA defines a public accommodation as a private entity whose operations affect commerce and which falls within one of 12 enumerated categories. Courts are split on whether the ADA limits places of public accommodation to physical spaces. As stated in our 2016 article, courts have taken diverging positions on whether the ADA limits places of public accommodation to physical spaces, which fall under three main categories: (1) websites are not physical locations, so they cannot constitute public accommodations under the ADA; (2) websites may be considered public accommodations if there is a nexus between that website and a physical location that falls into one of the enumerated categories under the ADA; and (3) websites themselves can constitute public accommodations under the ADA, even if websites do not have any nexus to a physical location.

While Judge Robert Scola stopped short of deciding whether the supermarket chain's website qualifies as a public accommodation, he confirmed that Title III of the ADA applies if the website is "heavily integrated" with and serves as a "gateway to the physical stores." The supermarket chain argued that Mr. Gil had not been denied access to the supermarket chain's physical store locations as a result of the inaccessibility of the website, but the Court held that the ADA does not merely require physical access to a place of public accommodation. Rather, Judge Scola held the ADA requires that disabled individuals be provided "full and equal enjoyment" of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any public accommodation. The court found that the services offered on the retailer's website, such as the online pharmacy management system, the ability to access digital coupons that link automatically to a customer's rewards card, and the ability to find store locations are undeniably services, privileges, advantages, and accommodations offered by the supermarket chain's physical store locations. Thus, the court held that the supermarket chain's inaccessible website violated the ADA.

Plaintiff's expert estimated it would cost a total of $37,000 to make the supermarket chain's website fully accessible. The chain had set aside $250,000 to develop an ADA policy for its website and to make its website accessible. The Court found that even a $250,000 cost to modify the website paled in comparison to the $2 million the chain spent in 2015 to launch its website and the $7 million it spent in 2016 to remodel the website for its rewards program. As a result, the Court found that the cost was not unduly burdensome. The Court also found that the fact that third party vendors (e.g., Google and American Express) operate parts of the supermarket chain's website does not excuse the retailer's obligation to make its website accessible to the disabled.

Recommendations for Businesses
While the circuit courts remain split and the Department of Justice has not yet formally adopted WCAG 2.0, this decision seems to reflect the future of the ADA and its applicability to the internet and confirms that businesses (and certainly brick and mortar businesses) should make their websites accessible by bringing them into compliance with WCAG 2.0.

At Lewis Brisbois, the attorneys in our ADA Compliance & Defense practice group assist businesses with evaluating their levels of compliance with the WCAG guidelines by working closely with experts in the field to conduct technical accessibility reviews of each business' web content. This enables us to determine the steps our clients may need to take in order to achieve greater compliance under the ADA and, ultimately, to help our clients avoid the high costs associated with an unfavorable outcome at litigation. In the event litigation is unavoidable, we have the knowledge and experience to defend these actions and obtain favorable results for our clients.

Our ADA Compliance & Defense practice group has successfully defended clients in an array of ADA-related matters from pre-litigation through appeal. With over 20 attorneys across the country, our team has the resources to advocate for our clients and provide them with the best possible result for the best possible value. In addition to the steps our team takes to defend against allegations of discrimination, we are also well-versed in assisting clients to contain the risk to their public image and mitigate damage to their public relations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Spencer Banks
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.