Think of how many tasks you can accomplish using company websites and apps. For any Ravens fan – you can purchase that new Lamar Jackson jersey you’ve been meaning to order, buy tickets to the big game, and even order pizza delivery for when you watch the game at home. Imagine – you have a vision/mobility impairment and when you go to order a pizza on the pizza restaurant’s online delivery platform, you cannot navigate through the page with your assistive technology. Your Ravens game watch party just took a big hit.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court considered a petition for certiorari in a case similar to the above scenario. On October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court rejected the petition for certiorari filed by Domino’s Pizza seeking review of a 9th Circuit decision which held that Guillermo Robles, a blind man who sued the pizza chain claiming that its website and mobile app were inaccessible to him because they did not work with screen-reading software, could maintain his lawsuit against the company. Robles brought his case under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that places of public accommodation remove barriers to access for individuals with disabilities. Places of public accommodation under the ADA are generally defined as businesses that are generally open to the public and fall into one of 12 categories listed in the ADA, such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools, day care facilities, recreation facilities, and doctors’ offices. While Domino’s argued that only physical facilities were covered by Title III of the ADA, Robles argued that the ADA requires businesses with physical locations to make their websites/apps accessible to individuals with disabilities. The Ninth Circuit sided with Robles and found that the “alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises—which are places of public accommodation” and the ADA Title III “applies to the services of a place of public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation.” With the Supreme Court denying Domino’s petition for certiorari, the Ninth Circuit decision stands and Robles may proceed with his ADA Title III claims against the company.
Although there is no clear federal guidance on the topic, the Supreme Court’s decision to deny Domino’s petition should send a message to companies that serve as places of public accommodation. With website accessibility lawsuits on the rise year-to-year many more businesses are facing sanctions, fines and legal costs related to non-compliance. Take steps now to ensure that your website and apps are accessible and strive to meet the WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards.
Adam E. Konstas represents local school boards, superintendents, private schools, colleges, and private sector employers before federal and state courts as well as federal and state administrative agencies on a variety of matters, including employment discrimination claims, employee (and student) discipline, labor relations, and wage/hour claims. Mr. Konstas also advises clients on the design and implementation of policies and procedures regarding employee (and student) relations, employee handbooks, hiring and termination procedures, as well as school system-wide policy issues including the use of online instructional tools and cloud computing, student data privacy, anti-discrimination. Mr. Konstas is well versed in the burgeoning website accessibility area of law and has successfully resolved a number of matters involving website accessibility. He can be reached at 410-339-5786 and firstname.lastname@example.org.