Have you ever made online purchases as frequently as you have in recent months? Have you ever had so many employees working remotely? The pandemic-related surge in consumer reliance on online purchases, with a workforce serving those customers remotely, makes website accessibility for disabled persons an increasingly high-profile issue.
Disabled consumers who experience barriers when attempting to access goods and services online may have Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims. Many courts view websites providing access to goods and services as places of “public accommodation” under the ADA, which must be made accessible to persons with disabilities. Websites can be adapted to be accessible to persons with vision, hearing, cognitive and other disabilities. Even before the pandemic, litigation had been on the rise in this area. We expect that to continue.
Companies should consider whether their websites are places of public accommodation. Do consumers rely on your website to make purchases, to schedule appointments, to pay bills or to otherwise do business with you? If so, what steps have you taken for accessibility? If you have made arrangements for accessibility, are your current measures up-to-date?
These accessibility issues impact your employees, too. Remote work has expanded dramatically and is likely to continue after stay-at-home orders are lifted. What if a disabled employee requires accommodation to access the job remotely? An employer has a duty to make reasonable accommodations to facilitate performance of essential job duties. Evaluating employer obligations to accommodate remote work for disabled persons means assessing the associated costs and considering whether the employer or the employee requested the remote work. Employers should evaluate these and other issues when employees request accommodations allowing access to technology for remote work.
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