On February 14, 2023, Assembly Bill 950 by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego) was introduced to address internet website accessibility. AB 950 would add Civil Code Section 55.565 and would amend Government Code Sections 4469.5 and 14985.6.
Section 1 of the bill would amend the heading of Part 2.53 of Division 1 of the Civil Code so that Part 2.53 is called “Attorney’s Fees and Statutory Damages in Accessibility Standards Claims.”
Section 2 of the bill would add Civil Code Section 55.565 to provide that statutory damages can only be recovered against an entity based upon the inaccessibility of an internet website of that entity if the internet website fails to provide equally effective communication or facilitate full and equal enjoyment of the entity’s goods and services to the public, including any member of the public who is disabled.
In order for a plaintiff to obtain statutory damages for internet website inaccessibility, a plaintiff must prove either that (1) the plaintiff personally encountered a barrier that interfered with their ability to access all or part of the entity’s internet website, and caused the plaintiff to experience a difference in their ability to access or use the website as compared to other users; or, (2) the plaintiff must have been unable to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, or enjoy the same services with substantially equivalent ease of use, or to have the same level of privacy and independence as other users who are not disabled.
AB 950 provides that an internet website is presumed to provide equally effective communication for the purpose of an award of minimum statutory damages if the internet website complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standard for the accessibility of internet websites established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Accessibility Guidelines Working Group on June 5, 2018, or any more stringent subsequent update, revision, or replacement to WCAG published by the W3C. Finally, the bill would define the terms “entity” and “Internet website.”
Section 3 of the bill would amend Government Code Section 4469.5 to require additional informational notices to applicants that are provided by local governmental entities when issuing business licenses, building permits, etc. In addition to general information about compliance requirements for the federal ADA of 1990, applicants would have to be provided information about compliance with the state’s disability access laws, that a business’ internet website is required to be accessible.
Section 4 of the bill would amend Government Code Section 14985.6 to require the California Commission on Disability Access to review the standards established to determine whether they are the most up-to-date standards for effective communication by means of an internet website and, within 30 days of determining that the standards are not up to date and should be revised, notify the Assembly Speaker and Senate President pro Tempore and the Chairs of the Assembly and Senate Committees on Judiciary, of its determination.