The Latest News Surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

By: Sarah Roberts
An American flag with icons of people

Read our latest installment of insights and developments on the Americans with Disabilities Act.  

Attorneys General Voice Support for ADA Updates 

In July, the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The changes will create new accessibility obligations for websites and mobile apps.  Now, 11 state attorneys general have voiced their support for the DOJ’s proposal.  

The updates will offer more clarity for state and local governments, who acknowledge that their websites and apps are increasingly critical for their interactions with the public. Some of the notable requirements include: 

  • Alt-text on images to support those using screen readers 
  • Captions for video content 
  • The ability to modify the size of onscreen text 
  • Keyboard navigation capabilities 

“In this digital age, as our lives move increasingly online, public agencies must ensure they are meeting people where they are,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. 

The attorneys general praise the DOJ proposal for improving accessibility and offer several recommendations, including consistent standards regardless of the entity’s size or whether the content predates or postdates the rule. It also requests some limited exceptions for materials in archives.  

The comment period for the proposed updates closed in October, and the final ruling is expected within the next few months.  

Person using a touch screen

Quest’s Inaccessible Touch Screens Violate ADA 

A California federal court found Quest Diagnostics in violation of the ADA for its use of inaccessible self-service kiosks. In 2016, the clinical lab began relying on touch screens that allowed patients to check in for appointments, edit their personal information and request assistance. According to the complaint, the touch screens were inaccessible for those who are blind or have low vision.  

The American Council of the Blind joined the lawsuit, arguing that the kiosks failed to communicate effectively with people with vision-related disabilities and did not offer them equitable access to services.  

The ACB prevailed in the lawsuit, with the court agreeing that the kiosks violated Title III of the ADA. Given the increase in self-service options at businesses nationwide, the ruling’s impact could be significant for many other businesses.  

“Touchscreen kiosks are an ever-increasing aspect of our daily lives – this decision ensures that accessibility of those kiosks will need to be front and center in the minds of every company wishing to make use of self-service technology,” said Matthew Handley, an attorney for the ACB.  

UPS Faces EEOC Suit for Disability Discrimination 

According to a recent suit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), United Parcel Service (UPS) violated the ADA by refusing to provide reasonable accommodations for drivers who are Deaf or hard of hearing.  

The shipping company reportedly would not hire individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing for positions involving operating vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds. The Department of Transportation (DOT) does, however, authorize the same individuals for such positions.  

The EEOC is claiming that denying applicants who are Deaf or hard of hearing this opportunity violates the law because those drivers could pass the required training and tests with the assistance of reasonable accommodations. The DOT exempts drivers who are Deaf or hard of hearing from hearing-related tests and allows such applicants to qualify under alternative criteria that evaluate their ability to safely operate such vehicles. As a result, the claim states that UPS is improperly screening qualified applicants. 

UPS app on a phone screen

EEOC Files Discrimination Suit Against Cargo Company  

The EEOC filed a suit against Alliance Ground International, a cargo logistics company, for discrimination against an applicant who is Deaf. The individual applied for a position as a mail handler in the company’s Chicago location, but Alliance Ground rejected him because of his disability.  

According to the EEOC, the company assumed that being Deaf prevented the applicant from working safely in a warehouse environment. Additionally, the claim states that denying employment opportunities for applicants who are Deaf is Alliance Ground’s policy. The claim also accuses the company of violating record-keeping laws by destroying job applications.   

Under the ADA, employers must make an effort to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and applicants with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against qualified applicants because of a disability. 

a Union Pacific train

Union Pacific Railroad Defending EEOC Discrimination Claim 

The EEOC sued Union Pacific Railroad for violations of the ADA. According to the lawsuit, the railroad used “unlawful qualification standards” that improperly screened out qualified conductors and locomotive engineers for perceived disabilities.  

According to the EEOC, Union Pacific requires regular vision tests from its conductors and engineers as part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s certification standards. However, the railroad also began requiring something called a “light cannon” test, which Union Pacific created. That additional test does not simulate real-world conditions and is not representative of a person’s ability to interpret railway signals.  

The involved employees all passed the initial screening or provided medical documentation indicating their ability to determine colors and perform their jobs. When they didn’t pass the light cannon test, Union Pacific placed them on leave, effectively terminating their employment.  

“Everyone wants railroads to be safe,” said Gregory Gochanour, a regional attorney with the EEOC. “However, firing qualified, experienced employees for failing an invalid test of color vision does nothing to promote safety and violates the ADA.” 

For more accessibility tips and insights, visit Verbit’s accessibility hub.