By: Eli Hill,
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), private entities, including businesses and nonprofits, must provide individuals with disabilities equal access to the services they offer. When a private entity uses a space for a public gathering with the purpose of education, sales, recreation, or presentation, that service is considered a public accommodation. Since the dawn of the digital age, the courts have continued to grapple with whether website operations should be classified as a “public accommodation”.
The courts have been hesitant to classify any business operation within cyberspace as a public accommodation. At the time the ADA was enacted in 1990, society was not as reliant on the Internet as today. Listed examples of public accommodations in the policy itself only include services that are offered within “brick and mortar” buildings. As businesses extended their brands and marketing online, disability advocates pressed the courts to reconcile this shift against the ADA language and intentions.
To date, business websites are still not counted as a public accommodation on its own. However, the courts have found that websites which offer information on physical store locations are a beneficial support for the public accommodation provided in-store. Expanding this idea further, the courts are exploring the idea of websites as gateways to actual business interactions. The intangible barriers are earning attention alongside the tangible ones and so committees are again pushing for a more progressive analysis of the ADA.
As the construction of websites grossly outpaces physical space constructions, the obstructions in access to the digital portals require equal attention. More and more companies continue to abandon the physical storefront model of operation and build their corporate strategies around purely web-based models.  Accordingly, a dynamic interpretation of the ADA against an equally dynamic digital sphere will remain a necessary platform of judicial review.
 28 C.F.R. § 35. 104, 35.160 Lexis (Feb. 2, 2018)
 See U.S. Dept. of Justice: Civil Rights Div., Title III Technical Assistance Manual III-1 (2000), https://www.ada.gov/taman3.html.
 See Joseph L. Friedman & Gary C. Norman, The Norman/Friedman Principle: Equal Rights to Information and Technology Access, 18 Tex. J. on c.l. & c.r. 47, 48-9 (Fall 2012).
 Id. at 47.
 See id.
 See 42 U.S.C.S. § 12181 Lexis (Feb. 26, 2018) (listing out examples of public accommodations).
 See, Rendon v. Valleycrest Prods., 294 F.3d 1279, 1283 (11th Cir. 2002).
 See e.g., Gomez v. Bang & Olufsen Am., Inc., No. 1:16-cv-23801 LEXIS, 15457 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 2, 2017).
 See Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F. Supp. 2d 946 (N.D. Cal. 2006); see also Earll v. Ebay, Inc., 599 F. App’x 695 (9th Cir. 2015) (finding that there must be a connection between the good and service offered by a public accommodation and an actual physical space).
 See generally Del-Orden v. Bonobos, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 209251 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 20, 2017) (comparing “brick and mortar” walls and websites as offering boundaries from which customers operate within).
 See Magee v. Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc., 833 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 2016) (referencing the need to address website accessibility).
 See Bradley Allan Arehart & Michael Ashley Stein, Integrating the Internet, 83 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 449, 454 (Feb, 2015).
 See Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 257 F. Supp. 3d 1340 (S.D. Fla. 2017) (finding by jury trial for the first time the need to recognize websites as a nexus to the business operation).
 See id.
Image Source: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/website-accessibility-disabilities-regulations-doj.aspx.