The 15 Employees for ADA Website Compliance Myth

Team of employees discusses project around a couch.
Nobody is quite sure of whether you need 15 employees to fall under the ADA.

(Updated for 2023)

I’m frequently asked if the ADA applies to small businesses, non-profits, etc., if they have fewer than 15 employees.

And, of course, this falls within the context of making a website compliant under the Americans with Disabilities Act (and related disability discrimination state and local laws).

The answer:

Yes, the ADA can absolutely apply to you, even if you’re not an employer of 15.

I searched Google to see why this wasn’t obvious and it’s because it’s not obvious.

First, there are a lot of accessibility and marketing agencies that are just remixing each others wrong or gloss-over articles.

(Gloss-over means they broach the topic as if they’re going to answer the question but only write of the topic. Kind of clever in a cheap way.)

And some of the articles are just flat wrong. They’ll straight up tell you the ADA only applies to employers of 15 or more employees.

First of all, no.

Second of all, why are so many posting crucial information that is so blatantly wrong?

It’s because law firms and legal hubs are posting the incorrect answer.

That’s right, most of the legal websites I read actually got the law wrong.

(Side note: Some legal sites pulled the same gloss-over technique and didn’t really answer the question.)

The Law, Simply

George H.W. Bush signing the ADA into law outdoors surrounded by onlookers.
The iconic picture of George H.W. Bush. signing the ADA.

Title I of the ADA prohibits private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including State and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.

Although it’s not pertinent here, for good measure, here’s Title II:

Title II applies to State and local government entities, and… protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in services, programs, and activities provided by State and local government entities.

Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations (businesses that are generally open to the public and that fall into one of 12 categories listed in the ADA, such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools, day care facilities, recreation facilities, and doctors’ offices)… to comply with the ADA Standards.


What’s important to remember is these are standalone titles.

Title I refers to discrimination in employment and who must comply. Title I is the title with the 15 or more employees threshold.

Title III refers to discrimination in the general public sphere and who must comply.

Can you, a place of public accommodation, fall under both titles?


We can easily imagine that Costco must not discriminate in its employment as well in how it accommodates patrons.

Let’s take this a step further and provide a real-life illustration.

Imagine you’ve started frequenting a not-so-fine Italian restaurant because it’s near your New York apartment.

The Italian restaurant employs 13 lucky employees.

Must this Italian restaurant make accommodations so that its facilities are accessible to the public?

Yes, of course.

If Luigi’s isn’t accessible by patrons in wheelchairs, you can be sure they are in violation of the ADA and, no, they don’t skirt around it by having less than 15 employees.

And, now, we’ve come back to you.

You the small business owner.

You the non-profit organization or association.

You, the entity with definitely fewer than 15 employees.

Does your website need to be accessible/ADA compliant?


To skip a long story, the current legal landscape is that websites are generally interpreted to be places of public accommodations (like restaurants, banks, gyms, etc., are) in many U.S. courts and thus you fall under Title III of the ADA.

But is your website really a place of public accommodation?

Read why, legally, almost every website needs to be accessible.

By the way, if you’re concerned about ADA litigation, my ADA Compliance Course tells you how to prevent website accessibility lawsuits.

You can learn more at