According to the United States District Court of Massachusetts, no, it is not. On June 19th, the district court issued a Memorandum and Order Regarding Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings in the matter of the National Association of the Deaf, et al. (“NAD”), versus Netflix Inc. This judgment denied an earlier motion for dismissal filed by Netflix.
As part of the suit the plaintiffs’ claimed that Netflix’s web site for the Watch Instantly feature was a place of public accommodation. The court ruled that this interpretation of the ADA, as applying to web-based businesses, was supported by the First Circuit’s decision in Carparts Distrib. Ctr. v. Auto. Wholesaler’s Assoc. This ruling held that places of public accommodation were not limited to actual physical structures. Quoting the First Circuit ruling the District Court explained that
[i]t would be irrational to conclude that persons who enter an office to purchase services are protected by the ADA, but persons who purchase the same services over the telephone or by mail are not. Congress could not have intended such an absurd result.
The U.S. District court continued stating that “Carparts’s reasoning applies with equal force to services purchased over the Internet, such as video programming offered through the Watch Instantly web site. In a society in which business is increasingly conducted online, excluding businesses that sell services through the Internet from the ADA would”
run afoul of the purposes of the ADA and would severely frustrate Congress’s intent that individuals with disabilities fully enjoy the goods, services, privileges and advantages, available indiscriminately to other members of the general public.
So, as far as we can tell, according to the ADA the no – a public accommodation is not limited to a physical site.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.