Massachusetts Federal Court Rules That the ADA Applies to Online-Only Business as a "Place of Public Accommodation"


On June 19, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts held, in National Association for the Deaf, et al. v. Netflix, Inc., that Netflix’s online video-streaming service, known as “Watch Instantly,” qualified under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) as a “place of public accommodation” obligated not to discriminate against the disabled. This decision extends an existing circuit split regarding the ADA’s applicability to internet-based businesses, and should prompt all companies and organizations providing services via the Internet or selling goods online to consider carefully whether and to what extent their websites are sufficiently accessible to those with visual and auditory disabilities.


Under the ADA, “place[s] of public accommodation” must not discriminate against an individual on the basis of disability. This statutory dictate includes the requirement that qualifying businesses “take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services.”

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