Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in litigation regarding the accessibility of websites for disabled persons. Domino’s Pizza was one of the few companies trying to fight website accessibility claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). That fight recently ended, when the United States Supreme Court declined to further consider the issue of whether the ADA applies to websites as places of “public accommodation.”
This decision by the Court left standing the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Domino's Pizza, LLC v. Robles, 913 F.3d 898 (2019), which held, among other things, that the access requirements of the ADA apply to the website and mobile application of Domino’s Pizza.
Summary of Domino’s Case
The Domino’s case involved a lawsuit filed by Guillermo Robles, a blind man from California, attempted on at least two occasions to order pizza from a local Domino’s using the company’s website for online ordering. Mr. Robles uses screen reading software to allow him to access the content on websites. In his complaint, Mr. Robles, alleged that Domino’s failed to design the website in a way that would be fully accessible to him. Mr. Robles alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101, and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (UCRA), California Civil Code §51.
The primary issue before the Ninth Circuit, in this case, was whether the ADA applies to websites. The Ninth Circuit concluded that it does. The Court reasoned that the “alleged inaccessibility of the Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises – which are places of public accommodation.” Domino's Pizza, LLC v. Robles, 913 F.3d 898, 905 (2019).
The Ninth Circuit did not reach the issue of whether the Domino’s Pizza website and mobile app complied with the ADA access requirements. Instead, the Court left this question open for the district court to decide after discovery. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, this case will now head back to the district court for further proceedings. Unfortunately, this leaves business owners with little legal guidance on what access specifications are required by the ADA and therefore how to reform their websites to comply with the ADA.
However, all is not lost. The website technology community has stepped into the void and provided guidance in the form of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. The WCAG guidelines are the product of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is an international organization that works to develop standards for the internet. Specifically, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines have been developed by accessibility experts and have been widely adopted by government agencies as the standard of accessibility to follow.
Until we get further legal guidance from the courts or the Department of Justice, we recommend that all businesses take steps to ensure that their website complies with the WCAG 2.0 standard. This provides the best insurance to avoid being the target of the next ADA access lawsuit.