What is digital accessibility and why is it important?

By Eve Hill

Digital accessibility allows people with disabilities to access the same information and engage in the same transactions at the same time as others, with equivalent ease of use. This has become more critical as the internet has evolved to play an integral role in most every aspect of life. It’s not just websites, but also mobile applications that need to be accessible for everyone.

What are the new federal government rules in place for the ADA and digital accessibility?

The federal government is making clear that the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, doesn’t just focus on physical access accommodations, but also includes digital accessibility. Their most recent rule updated Title II of the ADA requiring state and local government entities to make their websites and mobile applications accessible within two to three years. It is expected that they will likely move to update Title III next. 

Which categories of private entities will the law apply to?

This area of the law applies to 12 categories of private entities: 

  1. Hotels (places of lodging)
  2. Restaurants and bars
  3. Theaters and stadiums
  4. Auditoriums, convention centers, and lecture halls (places of public gathering)
  5. Retail stores (grocery stores, bakeries, clothing stores, malls, etc.) 
  6. Service establishments (bank, laundromat, travel agency, law and doctors’ offices, hospitals, etc.)
  7. Public transportation stations or terminals
  8. Museums, libraries, and galleries
  9. Places of recreation (parks, zoos, amusement parks, etc.)
  10. Private schools
  11. Social service establishments (homeless shelters, day care centers, adoption agencies, etc.)
  12. Exercise and recreation spaces (gyms, spas, bowling alleys, golf courses, etc.)

It is generally accepted that future rules will provide clear guidelines for websites and mobile apps that are associated with places of public accommodation (i.e., Domino’s Pizza website). There is still some disagreement across the country about standalone websites and mobile apps that are not associated with a brick and mortar location. 

Which recent law cases have marked a change in the importance of digital accessibility?

There is a growing body of case law that underscores the importance of taking digital accessibility seriously. Here are just a few areas of note:

  • Companies such as CVS, Labcorp, and Quest diagnostics have been ordered to make their check-in kiosks accessible.
  • Colleges and Universities are being challenged to make online content accessible. 
  • Podcast providers such as Sirius XM, Stitcher, Pandora, and others have been sued for failure to provide transcripts or captions for their content. 
  • Many companies use widely available online services to add “overlay” applications to their websites. These services add controls that purport to make sites more accessible. However, several lawsuits have deemed these “quick fix” solutions inadequate. 
  • A court has extended accessibility requirements to virtual reality programs.
What does the current landscape of digital accessibility look like?

To appreciate the scale of the challenge, consider there are 200 million active websites in the world (over 1 billion total) with more added every minute. Of the top one million homepages, 95.9% have accessibility barriers, with an average of 56.8 errors per page!

This discussion highlights the need for a sea change in the fields of web and online application design, development and maintenance. It’s not just the web designers and developers, but every aspect of an organization – from operations to customer service – that needs to learn how to carefully consider and ensure digital accessibility for their audiences. 


Eve Hill is one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers, known especially for her work with clients with disabilities and LGBTQ+ clients. She has been recognized by Law360 as one of just 12 “Titans of the Plaintiffs’ Bar” for 2023, as well as by Lawdragon as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America (2022 and 2023). Her wide-ranging experience complements Brown, Goldstein & Levy’s decades of dedication to high-impact disability rights cases and its advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families. Eve chairs the Board of Trustees for the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a national legal advocacy organization advancing and protecting the civil rights of adults and children with mental illness. Eve also leads Inclusivity, BGL’s Strategic Consulting Group, which works with organizations to promote the education, engagement, and employment of people with disabilities. Learn more about Eve here.


Founded in 1982, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a law firm based in Baltimore, Maryland, with an office in Washington, DC. The firm is nationally recognized in a wide variety of practice areas, including complex civil and commercial litigation, civil rights, health care, family law, and criminal defense. Above all else, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a client-centered law firm that brings decades of experience and passionate, effective advocacy to your fight for justice.

Authored by

Eve Hill Partner