Domino’s Pizza’s website and app must be accessible to the blind

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On Jan. 15, 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Domino’s Pizza’s website and mobile application were in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act because they may not be fully accessible to a blind or visually impaired person. 

A three-judge panel held that the ADA applied to Domino’s website and app because the ADA mandates that places of public accommodation provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind. The court ruled that the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not the services in a place of public accommodation. 

Guillermo Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC

Guillermo Robles, a blind man, accesses the internet using screen-reading software which vocalizes visual information on websites. Domino’s operates a website and app that allows customers to order pizzas and other products for at-home delivery or in-store pickup and receive exclusive discounts. Robles unsuccessfully attempted to order online a customized pizza from a local Domino’s. Robles asserted that he could not order the pizza due to Domino’s failure to design its website and app so his screen-reading software could read them. 

In September 2016, Mr. Robles filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California seeking damages and injunctive relief based on Domino’s alleged failure to design, construct, maintain, and operate its website and app to be fully accessible to and independently usable by blind or visually-impaired people. The District Court dismissed the lawsuit holding that Department of Justice regulations and technical assistance are necessary for the court to determine what obligations a regulated individual or institution must abide by in order to comply with the ADA, and, therefore, the lawsuit violated Domino’s due process rights.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s decision holding:

  • Imposing liability on Domino’s does not violate the company’s due process rights.
  • The ADA, which became law in 1990, applies to websites.
  • The U.S. Constitution only requires that Domino’s receive fair notice of its legal duties, not a blueprint for compliance with statutory regulations.
  • The ADA mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino’s, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind. 

The Ninth Circuit remanded the case back to the District Court to decide whether or not Domino’s website and app provide the blind with effective communication and full and equal enjoyment of its products and services as the ADA mandates. 

A similar case is pending in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, a blind man alleges that screen-reading software could not access the website for the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain. A U.S. District Court in Miami ruled in favor of the blind man. Winn-Dixie appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has not yet issued a ruling.

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