A federal appeals court recently held that a grocery store’s website was not a public accommodation nor did it create an intangible barrier to the physical stores which would subject it to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The plaintiff had a visual disability which required him to use screen reader software which vocalized the content of the website. While the grocery store did not sell any goods through its website, the plaintiff wanted to re-fill his prescriptions through the website rather than doing so at the store. However, the grocery store’s website was not compatible with the website. The plaintiff then sued the grocery store for violating ADA.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in major areas of public life including the right to full and equal enjoyment of any place of public accommodation. While the statute sets out examples of various physical locations, the court noted that the list does not include websites. The court then concluded that the “pursuant to the plain language of  the ADA, public accommodations are limited to actual, physical places.” The court, which had jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia and Alabama, commented that there was a split among many federal courts as to this issue. Given the complexity of the issue and varying court decisions, a careful analysis of an entity’s situation is necessary to determine the risks and best strategy for avoiding liability related to any website.