Erotic Films Challenged Under the ADA

Frank Kollman
Frank Kollman

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employment discrimination, but it also requires public accommodations, such as wheelchair ramps and Braille lettering.  Places of public accommodation must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

Over the years, the courts have had to deal with whether websites are “places” of public accommodation.  Several federal appeals courts have taken the position that they are not, unless they are integrated into a business’ physical location.  For example, many brick and mortar stores carry a larger online inventory than they stock on their floors, and their ordering websites have to accommodate persons with disabilities.

Other federal appeals courts have held that websites themselves are, in fact, places of public accommodation.  A lawsuit filed recently in federal court in New York City could decide whether website-only businesses, in this case erotic film sites, are places of public accommodation.  A hearing-impaired individual has filed a class action claiming that the lack of closed captions on movies provided on websites such as Pornhub and Youporn discriminates against deaf or hearing-impaired individuals in violation of the ADA.  Suris v. Mindgeek Holding SARL, d/b/a et al., Case No. 1:20-cv-00284-CBA-RML (EDNY 2020).

The complaint alleges that Suris and similarly-situated disabled individuals are denied equal access to the facilities, goods, and services provided by these adult websites.  Specifically, the complaint states that such individuals cannot access the websites on the same terms as others to enjoy the dialogue and sound descriptions through closed captioning on films such as “Hot Step Aunt Babysits Disobedient Nephew” or “Sexy Cop Gets Witness to Talk.”

Despite the somewhat amusing aspects of this case, access to the Internet and online services is a central element of the controversy.  How the ADA will be applied to online services will become more important as the economy moves away from physical locations and toward digital goods.  Moreover, accessibility options may be required for any business using a website to promote its products and services if the ADA is read broadly.


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