In a win for businesses, on April 7, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held in Juan Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., that websites are not “places of public accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and rejected the “nexus” standard that has been adopted by several other federal circuits. This long-awaited decision follows a proliferation of website accessibility cases alleging that businesses have discriminated against disabled individuals in violation of the ADA by operating or maintaining websites that are not fully accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals 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. The term “place of public accommodation” is key. At issue in many of these website accessibility cases is whether a website is a place of public accommodation under the ADA. The Eleventh Circuit answered that question in the negative, relying on the fact that the statutory language in the ADA defining a “place of public accommodation” is unambiguous and clear. Specifically, the ADA lists 12 types of tangible, physical locations that constitute places of public accommodation, none of which are intangible places or spaces that are akin to websites. Continue Reading