Ordering food online is supposed to be convenient— but Domino’s Pizza needs to ensure that it’s convenient for everyone.
The Supreme Court passed on reviewing a case from the pizza chain Monday, which questioned whether it has to make its website and mobile app accessible for people with disabilities.
This decision is a victory for blind people and those with limited vision who need to access websites and apps just as easily as any sighted person. The decision could also inspire others to sue retailers to make sure their websites and mobile apps are accessible.
The case, known as Domino’s Pizza LLC. v. Guillermo Robles, started when a blind man, Guillermo Robles, sued Domino’s in 2016 after he was unable to order food from the pizza chain using screen reading technology. His attorneys cited the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed with Robles, arguing under the ADA that customers should be able to access “the services of a public accommodation.” In this case, that means Domino’s website and mobile app.
The pizza chain, on the other hand, argued that the ADA shouldn’t apply to online spaces.
Domino’s wanted the Supreme Court to review the 9th Circuit’s decision, but because it won’t, the lower court’s ruling will remain in place.
“The blind and visually impaired must have access to websites and apps to fully and equally participate in modern society – something nobody disputes,” Robles’ lawyer, Joe Manning, said in a statement to CNBC. “This outcome furthers that critical objective for them and is a credit to our society.”
Christina Brandt-Young, managing attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, told Mashable that the ADA should indeed include websites. “[The ADA] always applied to effective communication between businesses and their customers and that’s what Domino’s uses its websites for — to communicate with their customers.”
Predictably, Domino’s is disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Creating a nation-wide standard will eliminate the tsunami of website accessibility litigation that has been filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers exploiting the absence of a standard for their own benefit, and chart a common path for both businesses and non-profit institutions to follow in meeting the accessibility needs of the disabled community,” Domino’s said in an online statement.
Since Domino’s wants to keep fighting, it’ll have to do so in the lower courts. If differing judicial opinions arise then the Supreme Court could reconsider and take up the case in the future. Brandt-Young says that’s unlikely, though.
This isn’t the first time, companies have come under fire over their allegedly inaccessible websites. As the Wall Street Journal reported, over 240 businesses in the U.S. were sued over this issue since the beginning of 2015.
While many of these companies settled, Domino’s seems to be bracing itself for the long run.
UPDATE: Oct. 7, 2019, 5:19 p.m. EDT Updated with comment from Christina Brandt-Young, managing attorney at Disability Rights Advocates.