Guillermo Robles, a blind man, attempted to order customized pizzas from Domino’s online twice, using both the company’s website and mobile app. Even with screen reading software, he wasn’t able to complete the transaction because online ordering options aren’t accessible for the blind. He sued Domino’s for the lack of accessibility. Now the case might head to the Supreme Court.
Robles, according to a report by CNBC, alleges in the lawsuit that the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that was enacted in 1990 and requires companies to make accommodations for disabled individuals, applies to websites and mobile apps if the business has physical locations.
While a federal appeals court agreed with Robles, that might not be the end of the story. The case might be heard by the Supreme Court.
Robles is one of many disabled Americans who have sued companies based on the ADA for not having accessible websites. Last year alone, over 2,200 similar lawsuits were filed. In comparison, only 814 such lawsuits were filed in federal courts during 2017.
Companies, including Domino’s, have labeled the lawsuits a nuisance, asserting that the government has not produced formal rules regarding websites and ADA compliance. However, disabled individuals and organizations supporting those with disabilities argue that businesses should follow international standards regarding accessibility or use other approaches to ensure their sites are accessible.
After the federal appeals court decision, Domino’s petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case. If it goes forward, it could become a landmark battle over accessibility in the digital world. The company argued that leaving the lower court’s ruling in place would “turn that flood of litigation into a tsunami.”
However, many believe making websites accessible to the blind is a necessity. Otherwise, those with vision impairments may not be able to fully participate in today’s digital business world.
“If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century,” said National Federation of the Blind representative Christopher Danielsen.
The onslaught of litigation could have been triggered by several recent incidents. In 2017, the Department of Justice stated that regulations on the matter would not be coming out, a reversal of an announcement made in 2010 that said the rules were forthcoming.
Attorney Scott Topolski, who represents businesses in ADA cases, said that the Gil v. Winn Dixie Stores decision in 2017, where a Miami federal court said that the company’s website was obligated to be accessible, may also be a cause.
Several business groups have expressed support for Domino’s. The Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the Restaurant Law Center have all submitted friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Domino’s in the matter.
The Supreme Court will decide whether it will hear the case – Domino’s Pizza v. Guillermo Robles – after returning from its summer recess.