Judge Rejects ADA Claim Against Airline Web Site

October 25, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The American With Disabilities Act (ADA) is not written broadly enough to cover Web sites as public accommodations, according to the US District Court of Miami.

ADA does not apply to “virtual spaces,” declared US District Judge Patricia Seitz, according to a report in the Miami Daily Business Review.   “[T]o fall within the scope of the ADA as presently drafted, a public accommodation must be a physical, concrete structure,” she wrote. “To expand the ADA to cover ‘virtual’ spaces would be to create new rights without well-defined standards.”

Access Now, a nonprofit Miami-based disability group, filed the ADA violation claim against Southwest Airlines claiming its Web site was not compatible with screen-reading software, used by the blind to utilize the internet.   The intent was to require Southwest to modify their Web site to allow for the use of said software.

Should Access Now desire such accommodations, Judge Seitz suggested lobbying Congress for an amendment to ADA.   Access Now believes ADA is written broadly enough and plans to appeal to the 11 th Circuit Court.

Southwest did not escape unscathed, as Seitz noted, “It is especially surprising that Southwest, a company which prides itself on its customer relations, has not voluntarily seized the opportunity to employ all available technologies to expand accessibility to its Web site for visually impaired customers who would be an added source of revenue.”

This is not the first the airline industry has heard from Access Now.   In July a similar suit was filed in US District Court of Miami against American Airlines.  That case is pending.