How does the ADA apply to real estate websites?


The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a Federal law which prohibits discrimination and guarantees people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else in all areas of life. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities in “places of public accommodation,” which is defined as a facility operated by a private entity whose operations affect commerce, and requires public accommodations communicate effectively with individuals with disabilities. The ADA does not specifically mention websites and it also does not outline standards for how public accommodations can make their websites accessible. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), who is tasked with enforcing the ADA, has repeatedly held that while the ADA does not specifically address the question of website accessibility, the ADA’s language is broad enough to include them. The DOJ has frequently cited recommendations such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 as acceptable metrics for accessibility and, on that basis, the WCAG standards have become known as the “De Facto” ADA standards for websites and a significant amount of litigation has ensued on this basis.


Is my website ADA compliant?

iHOUSEweb endeavors to create websites in a manner that is accessible to the broadest possible audience including persons with communication disabilities which by definition includes persons with vision, hearing or speech disabilities. However, since there remain no formal Federal standards which dictate exactly what an accessible website is and the status of the law with respect to whether the ADA applies to a website with no nexus to a physical space remains fluid, iHOUSEweb cannot guarantee that its websites fully comply with the de facto WCAG guidelines. In addition, iHOUSEweb’s product is designed to provide individual real estate agents with tools to create and customize their own public facing website by adding their own content, pictures, videos, links, as well as integrating content from third parties such as the local MLS board. By enabling such integration and customizability, you may modify accessible features of the website provided to you by iHOUSEweb or create new issues with respect to your website’s accessibility to persons with communication disabilities and for which iHOUSEweb would have no oversight, control or responsibility.

What are you doing to improve accessibility?

 
We remain committed to delivering tools and services that are accessible to the broadest possible audience of users. As the WCAG guidelines evolve and new versions are issued, we continue to look for ways in which our platform can improve.


Does iHOUSEweb monitor websites for accessibility?


No, iHOUSEweb does not offer a service in which it monitors on an ongoing basis websites for accessibility. To the extent a customer is interested in such a service, there are various third party vendors who specialize in this area.


What steps can I take to improve accessibility?

Here are some basic things you can do to improve accessibility of your website:

  • Test your website frequently for accessibility and promptly address any issues identified;
  • Offer direct assistance by way of a 24/7 phone number where users can call you who are having difficulty accessing information on your website; and
  • Consider retaining a third party vendor to evaluate your website’s accessibility and monitor it on anongoing basis to identify and immediately fix any accessibility issues found.


How do I test my site for accessibility?


There are both free and paid resources available to evaluate the accessibility of your website. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has also recommended that real estate agents focus on website accessibility and test their website against the current de facto WCAG 2.0/2.1 standards.


What do I do if I receive a demand letter or a lawsuit regarding my website’s accessibility?

According to NAR’s website, there is a growing legal threat from unscrupulous law firms hoping to cash in

on the delay in the issuance of formal Federal standards on what constitutes an accessible website.

Should you receive a demand letter or a lawsuit regarding your website’s accessibility, we recommend

you contact legal counsel for advice and instruction on how best to proceed.


Need more information?


NAR provides resources on website accessibility including the following:

https://www.nar.realtor/americans-with-disabilities-act-ada

https://www.nar.realtor/window-to-the-law/ada-and-website-accessibility-update

https://www.nar.realtor/realtor-ae-magazine/does-the-ada-apply-to-your-website


WCAG Accessibility Standard can be found at:

https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/