Section 508 of the ADA was updated within the past couple of years, expanding it to include electronic media such as the World Wide Web. Since that time, the US government has stated that it will only do business with those who abide by these new standards. Up until this point, there had been no cause for private Web sites to follow these standards.

A recent case in New York is the first time that it has been ruled that private Web sites must adhere to the ADA as well (though this only holds for the state of New York). Apparently, an investigation took place regarding both Ramada.com and Priceline.com and found that there were sections of both that were inaccessible to those using screen readers. Both companies must pay fines and have agreed to update their Web sites to comply with the ADA. The State Attorney General explained that the ADA refers to “all places of public accomodation”, which includes Web sites that provide booking capabilities for such public accomodation (Ramada.com allows users to book rooms at Ramada hotels, Priceline.com allows users to book rooms at hotels, airline tickets, and more).

This decision, should it every be brought to a federal level, could severely impact all private Web sites. It is not out of the question to eventually see any Web site that sells anything be required to be accessible. I happen to think that all Web sites should be written in an accessible manner because it’s so simple to do, but having legislation passed to do this just seems wrong.

Disclaimer: Any viewpoints and opinions expressed in this article are those of Nicholas C. Zakas and do not, in any way, reflect those of my employer, my colleagues, Wrox Publishing, O'Reilly Publishing, or anyone else. I speak only for myself, not for them.

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