California appellate court Holds in favor of an eCommerce only website ADA and Unruh Act

Websites that are not accessible to persons with visual disabilities constitute a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Several lawsuits have been filed across the country alleging that most of the retail websites were not accessible. This has been more prevalent in California, which has its own civil rights statute, the Unruh Act, that provides a right of action for both violations of the ADA and for other alleged denials of access to persons with disability on the basis of intentional discrimination, however, retailers have objected to these allegations arguing that a website is not a place of public accommodation and cannot possibly evince intentional discrimination. In Martinez v. Cot’n Wash, Inc. the California Court of Appeals agreed on both fronts, one, that the operation of a website cannot be a basis for ‘inferring intentional discrimination’ under the Unruh Act, and two, with a plurality of federal Circuit Courts that a retail website without any connection to a physical space does not constitute a place of public accommodation under the ADA.