Website Not Accessible – Dominos Case Headed to Supreme Court

by | Aug 5, 2019 | Accessibility

Case Update: Supreme Court hands victory to blind man who sued Domino’s over site accessibility

The Case for Web Accessibility

Guillermo Robles, a blind man, filed a federal lawsuit against Domino’s in September 2016. Given that the company prevented him from ordering a customized pizza due to lack of web accessibility.

The website and mobile app did not work with screen-reading web accessibility software. Generally speaking, software that vocalizes visual information found on websites. As a result, the online-only discounts, were off-limits to him. Therefore, Robles claimed Domino’s violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Similarly, their online presence should be compatible with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

In an interview, Robles’ attorney, Joe Manning, Jr. said; cases like this will become more relevant as technology progresses. Given these points, Manning pointed to multiple mobile apps that help shoppers navigate the aisles of grocery stores, deliver pre-ordered food to cars, and let customers order coffee ahead to skip the line.

“…blind and visually impaired people want to use all of this new technology, with attenton to mobile, websites or special kiosks,” Manning said.

The Multiple Outcomes

1. March 2017: The lower court ruled for Domino’s and tossed the case out

In March 2017, S. James Otero, presiding judge for the federal court in Pasadena, dismissed Robles’ claims. He found that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does apply to the Domino’s website and mobile app. However, applying it in the lawsuit would violate the company’s due process rights. Additionally, pointing out the Department of Justice had not handed down standards for online accessibility.

2. January 2019: The appeals court reversed, ruling that the ADA covers websites and mobile applications, therefore, the case can stay in court

On January 15, 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gave a big win to web accessibility in the case against Domino’s Pizza. In the final decision, the three-judge panel ruled Domino’s must make its website and mobile app accessible to blind people. Above all else, the company’s website and mobile app are critical avenues for the public to order online and find a nearby Domino’s restaurant.

“The alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises…” Judge Owens wrote for the panel.

In the final analysis, the panel found that imposing liability on Domino’s does not violate the company’s due process rights. The company has known that it must provide full and equal access to people with disabilities since 1990. It is important to realize, The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990. In addition, regulations from the Department of Justice have been clear since 1996.

Additionally, the panel added that a lack of specific rules governing how companies must make their websites accessible does not get Domino’s off the hook.

Now What – The Case for Web Accessibility

The judges rejected Domino’s argument that the absence of regulations requiring web accessibility doomed the case. As the judges explained, the case was not about whether Domino’s did not comply with WCAG:

“Robles does not seek to impose liability based on Domino’s failure to comply with WCAG 2.0. Robles merely argues that the district court can order compliance with WCAG 2.0 as an equitable remedy. For instance, if, after discovery, the website and app fail to satisfy the ADA Court Domino’s Pizza Ninth Circuit Opinion.”

As a result of the ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, on June 13, 2019 Domino’s asked the United States Supreme Court to hear this case and reverse this decision.

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises Ltd. filed its petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. In other words, they are asking the Court to review and overturn the January 2019 decision that allowed a web accessibility lawsuit to proceed against Domino’s.

The petition is presented as “Whether Title III of the ADA requires a website or mobile app, that offers goods or services to the public, to satisfy discrete accessibility requirements with respect to individuals with disabilities.”

In conclusion, the Court will generally act on a petition within 6 weeks. Robles has 30 days to file a response, then Domino’s a reply. After that, the Justices will review and determine whether to entertain the appeal.

Next Steps

The Supreme Court will decide in the fall whether or not to hear the case…

Key Points – The Case for Web Accessibility

  • Federal Lawsuit originally filed in 2016 against Domino’s Pizza
  • Case was thrown out by the lower courts in March 2017
  • Case overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2019
  • Web Accessibility Lawsuit to be re-evaluated by the Supreme Court in fall 2019
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act became a law in 1990

Blndspt provides remediation technology to all types of companies. We encourage everyone to make the change to accommodate all individuals and create inclusive technology. Moreover, when websites and mobile applications are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users have equal access to information and functionality.

Want to know more about web accessibility, Blndspt hosts a community forum where you can post questions, get answers, and make contacts.


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