Q: I am a real estate broker and I have been informed that real estate brokers who maintain websites may be subject to lawsuits if such websites are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Should I ensure that my website complies with the ADA?
A: Yes, real estate brokers ("Brokers") that utilize a website for business purposes should ensure that their website complies with the ADA. Legal action may be sought against Brokers who maintain websites that are not properly accessible to persons with disabilities.
The ADA is a federal law which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities "in all areas of public life." More specifically, Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in "places of public accommodation," and applies to most companies conducting business with the public.
Although the text of the ADA does not mention websites or the internet, several United States Courts and the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") have taken the position that, pursuant to Title III of the ADA, business related websites must be accessible to persons with disabilities. The DOJ is expected to issue a rule finalizing this position in 2018.
One step that Brokers may take to comply with the ADA is to make their website compatible with adaptive software that allows a person with a disability to alter the website’s content so that it is decipherable to them. For example, someone who is blind may use a specialized internet browser that allows him or her play the text in an audio format.
Important Tip: Brokers utilizing a website should contact their website provider as well as their attorney in order to assess whether they are in compliance with the ADA.
The Legal Line Question by:
Neil B. Garfinkel
REBNY Broker Counsel
Partner-in-charge of real estate and banking practices at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP