ADA non-compliance website lawsuits are becoming increasingly prevalent with headlines of big-name companies getting slapped with lawsuits becoming a regular occurrence.
One such company has been Domino’s Pizza. Though the lawsuit was filed three years ago, the Supreme Court recently made a big call – a judgment with serious consequences for not just large enterprises, but also small business owners.
Let’s take a deeper look into Domino’s ADA web accessibility lawsuit, how it started, what the Supreme Court’s decision means, and consequences for business owners in the United States.
Domino’s Pizza Online Website: Case Facts
Guillermo Robles, a blind California resident, uses screen-reading software to access the web. The software can be installed on a web browser and reads aloud what’s on-screen.
However, according to Robles, the software is not compatible with Domino’s Pizza’s website. Robles filed a suit in September 2016 against Domino’s, claiming that the company’s website would not let him order products on multiple occasions using the screen reader, that is, denying him service due to his disability.
Rubles demanded that Domino’s redesign its website and mobile app in accordance with the guidelines laid out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
Domino’s Pizza fought back saying that the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) only applies to physical stores (which were compliant) and not to the website or mobile app.
Lawyers from Domino’s also argued that the DOJ didn’t provide the necessary information that was required to make websites and mobile apps more accessible (there already are guidelines to make websites ADA compliant, just not issued specifically by the DOJ).
The District Court dismissed the case but then Robles appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Supreme Court’s Decision
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Domino’s Pizza’s appeal that stated:
- The ADA doesn’t apply to websites and mobile apps
- Their fair notice rights were being violated as they didn’t have enough information.
The justices turned down the appeal saying that both of these issues were invalid as the website and mobile app both connected the public with the physical store that delivered pizza and if the mobile and website aren’t accessible, neither are the physical stores.
The Court of Appeals further said that Domino’s did, in fact, have its fair notice.
According to the court, “at least since 1996, Domino’s has been on notice that its online offerings must effectively communicate with its disabled customers and facilitate ‘full and equal enjoyment’ of Domino’s goods and services.” which should be enough, even in the absence of specific instructions by the DOJ as the ADA allows “public spaces to determine how to meet the accessibility requirements.”
Though the case is still ongoing, the Supreme Court has made one thing very clear – websites and mobile apps are most definitely covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
So what does the ruling mean for your online business?
What Companies Can Get Sued for ADA Non-Compliance?
After looking at Domino’s Pizza, some business owners might let out a sigh of relief, thinking that if they don’t have any actual physical stores, they don’t have to worry about an ADA lawsuit coming their way – but they should.
In fact, eCommerce retailers are some of the biggest targets of these ADA lawsuits.
More importantly, all websites that are considered “public accommodation” need to be ADA compliant. The term public accommodation is pretty broad but in most cases, it will be interpreted as something that is being used or accessed by the public… which basically includes almost every online business.
In fact, you don’t even have to be selling something for ADA to apply to you. If you’re offering a service (free or not), your website (and mobile apps) need to be ADA compliant.
And of course, as we saw in Domino’s case, the website or mobile app needs to be ADA compliant if it is an aid or an auxiliary to the physical store.
Note: Though, ADA only covers businesses operating the United States, a version of ADA also exists in the European Union (EU) which means if your website in the EU is just as likely to be hit with a lawsuit.
How To Make A Website ADA Compliant
The main issue when it comes to making a website ADA compliant is understanding what elements can cause problems to individuals with disabilities. Where do you start and where do you stop?
Lawyers from Domino’s took this approach when they said that the DOJ hasn’t issued any strict guidelines or regulations regarding what an ADA compliant website should look like.
But that defense was shot down by the Court of Appeals when it stated that that isn’t a good enough reason to not have an ADA compliant website because there are other resources that can be used as points of reference.
The main difference between the two is that the latter, WAS, is a more toned-down or distilled version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG).
When following the Web Accessibility Standards (WAS), website owners need to look at the following five criteria (and subcategories):
- Descriptive text
- Nested Headings
- Clear forms
- Uniform labels
- Clean code
- Zoom text
- Color contrast ratio
- Distinctive links
- Consistent layout and navigation
- Descriptive alt text
- No images of text
- Text transcripts
- Closed captioning
- Table data
- Extraneous documents
- No automatic pop-ups
- No automatic video or audio
- No unexpected changes
- Pause updating/refreshing content
- Adjustable time limits
- Important submissions
- Keyboard only
- Focus indicator
- Skip navigation
- Search function
This may seem overwhelming to any business owner, especially to those with limited budget for a complete website overhaul. Thankfully, in 2019, technology has reached such a level that hiring a team of ADA compliance experts and lots of money and time are no longer requisites to creating an ADA compliant website.
All you need is an AI-based compliance tool that will automatically update every element on your website as well as make new changes to your website, 100% ADA compliant.