A Case Against Domino’s Reveals a Slice of the Internet’s Accessibility Issues
The pizza giant is matched against a blind customer advocating for a better digital world
For three years, Domino’s Pizza waged a legal war to exclude people with disabilities from using its website and popular app, underscoring the bizarre reality that U.S. civil rights law does not always apply to the internet — and that in an increasingly online world, no law or regulation broadly requires digital spaces to be as accessible as physical ones.
In 2016, the multinational pizza chain was sued by Guillermo Robles, a California man who is legally blind, after he was repeatedly unable to order a custom pizza from its website and app. Robles claimed that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an anti-discrimination law signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, Domino’s should have to make its platforms compatible with assistive technology. In Robles’ case, he could not use screen reader software — a type of text-to-audio translator — to read the instructions aloud and purchase a pizza. He argued that since Title III of the ADA prevents brick-and-mortar facilities, such as restaurants, from ostracizing people with disabilities, websites and apps should be compliant as well.
The lawsuit was dismissed by a California federal judge but later picked up in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 2018, the court ruled in favor of Robles, writing in an opinion that “the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation,” and that he may proceed with the lawsuit.
Domino’s petitioned the Supreme Court to relitigate the case but was rejected on Monday, with the court upholding the Ninth Circuit decision that Robles may sue the pizza company under the ADA. While unlikely, the Supreme Court could still hear the case if lower courts are divided on the eventual ruling, reported Gizmodo. Per the Los Angeles Times, the Ninth Circuit sent the case to a district judge in Los Angeles. Domino’s cited the fact that thousands of lawsuits are filed each year over inaccessible websites, which is an issue that pro-business groups, with the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have urged the Supreme Court to…