Supreme Court hands Domino’s a big defeat in ADA case

The court’s decision leaves in place a lower court ruling that the pizza chain’s website and app have to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Photograph courtesy of Domino's Pizza

Disabilities advocates won a major victory Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court left in place an appeals court ruling arguing that Domino’s website and app must abide by the same rules of accessibility as brick-and-mortar shops.

The top court refused to hear a federal appeals court ruling that Domino’s website and app have to follow Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and be accessible to people with visual or other impairments.

The decision could have broad implications for the restaurant industry, in particular. Chains such as Domino’s are taking a lot more orders through their website and smartphone apps, making them key places of doing business.

The ruling suggests restaurants could be subject to ADA lawsuits if that ordering technology isn’t accessible to people with disabilities.

The case is one of several that disabilities advocates have filed against companies’ websites, seeking to push them to comply with federal accessibilities regulations.

More than 5,000 lawsuits were filed against companies over ADA rules as of June 2019, according to BentoBox, an accessible restaurant website platform. The number of such lawsuits is expected to quadruple next year. Restaurants are a top target for such lawsuits.

The Domino’s case involves Guillermo Robles, a blind man who twice tried unsuccessfully to order a pizza from Domino’s. He filed suit in 2016, arguing that the company violated ADA rules because the software he uses to access such sites could not read Domino’s website or mobile app.

Domino’s argued that its website was not covered under the ADA and that the act violated the company’s due process rights.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company won the case in district court. In January, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned that ruling, arguing that the ADA did in fact apply to company websites.

“Even though customers primarily accessed the website and app away from Domino’s physical restaurants, the panel stated that the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not in a place of public accommodation,” the lower court ruling said. “The panel stated that the website and app connected customers to the goods and services of Domino’s physical restaurants.”

The appeals court also ruled that “Domino’s received fair notice that its website and app must comply with the ADA.”

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