I’m a bit floored. There are all kinds of obscure laws — or would-be laws — pertaining to real estate that can throw practitioners for a loop. But three points of discussion came up during Wednesday’s sessions at the REALTOR® Party Convention & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., that made my draw drop.
1. Your Website Discriminates Against People With Disabilities
You could make every physical accommodation for people with disabilities: ramps and elevators in your office, barrier-free entrances to homes you have listed, etc. And yet, despite all of that, you could still run into a legal problem — because your website isn’t optimized for use by people with hearing or visual impairments.
More and more businesses are getting mired in lawsuits because their online videos don’t have closed captioning for the deaf, or their websites don’t use software that can turn text into audio for the blind. Though there are no specific regulations on this, said Glen D. Kimball and Martin J. McAndrew, partners at law firm O’Connor Kimball LLP, they expect that the law will reflect the need for these online components in the near future.
“Laws governing accommodation for the disabled are always expanding,” McAndrew said. “Now we’re going beyond talking about opening physical doors for people with disabilities — it’s about providing access to information. The courts are still grappling with this physical versus non-physical issue.”
He cited two recent lawsuits brought against major players in the online space. The National Association for the Deaf sued Netflix in 2010, saying that the video-streaming website is a “place of public accommodation” and because it didn’t caption its video content, it wasn’t in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Netflix eventually agreed to caption 100 percent of its content by this year.