Domino's Fights Website Accessibility Ruling in Supreme Court, Social Media Weighs In

Domino's is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on a lawsuit filed against the company by Guillermo Robles, who claims the company's website is inaccessible to the blind in violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Robles is one of several Americans who have sued companies for discriminating against them and violating the ADA by not providing websites accessible to the blind. News that Domino's is fighting the lawsuit earned a strong reaction on social media.

Robles said he tried to order food on the pizza company's website. Even though he used a screen reading software, he said he was still not able to place an order. He filed the lawsuit against Domino's three years ago, alleging that the ADA also applies to websites and apps for businesses with physical locations, notes CNBC. A federal appears court has already agreed with Robles, and similar lawsuits have been filed against other businesses.

Domino's and other businesses argued that the federal government still has not issued rules on how sites and apps can be ADA compliant. The pizza chain said that if the lower court ruling stands without a decision from the Supreme Court, thousands more lawsuits against businesses could be filed.

“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,” Christopher Danielsen, a representative for the National Federation of the Blind, told CNBC.

In 2010, the U.S. Justice Department said it would set rules for businesses to make websites ADA compliant. However, the rules have never come. According to the Los Angeles Times, there is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which many government websites already follow. However, private business websites, many of which rely on images and video, are not required to follow this.

In 2018 alone, more than 2,200 cases against businesses for allegedly violating the ADA with its website were filed, up from only 814 in 2017. The increase could be tied to Gil v. Winn Dixie Stores, a 2017 case in which a Miami federal court said the grocery store's website had to be accessible.

“That probably emboldened attorneys, certainly here in Florida and probably throughout the country,” Scott Topolski, whose law firm represents businesses in ADA cases, told CNBC. “The landscape so far hasn’t been great for defendants and defense attorneys.”

Several businesses are joining Domino's, with the Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation and the Restaurant Law Center all submitting friend-of-the-court briefs. The Chamber of Commerce alleged that the Justice Department has only provided "inconsistent, nonbinding, and unaccountable" rules.

“The current and worsening uncertainty favors no one, except perhaps the small class of plaintiffs’ firms that have driven this litigation,” Chamber of Commerce attorney Gregory Garre wrote.

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Joseph Manning, Robles' attorney, would not comment on the case as it remains pending. He has to file a response by Aug. 14. In the meantime, the Supreme Court will decide on hearing the case, Domino’s Pizza v. Guillermo Robles, in the fall.

Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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