As a business with a physical location, you know how important it is to keep that location accessible for individuals with disabilities. Not only is doing so required by law, but it also helps you maintain good relationships with your valuable customers. Everybody deserves the chance to avail themselves of your products and services.
Did you know, however, that persons with vision impairments might struggle to access your products and services online? That there are steps you can take to make your website more accessible? And that doing so might just be the legal as well as the smart thing to do? A recent case involving major pizza chain Domino's highlights the importance of online accessibility for vision impaired customers.
The Domino's Case: Summary
A blind individual named Guillermo Robles tried to order a pizza from Domino's. Instead of going in the store, he did what many people do nowadays: He went online.
The problem was that Robles was unable to successfully use either the app or the website to complete his order. He tried, and failed, to order a Domino's pizza online at least twice, despite using screen reading software to help him navigate his online experience.
Robles' troubles quickly became Domino's troubles when he filed suit against the chain for not having an accessible website.
His argument? That as a business with a physical store, Domino's was in violation of ADA guidelines regarding accessibility by not having their website accessible to persons with disabilities.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Robles. As they explained in their decision, the “alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises—which are places of public accommodation.”
Domino's appealed the case to the Supreme Court. In October of 2019, that court declined to hear the case, allowing the lower court's decision in favor of Robles to stand.
The Domino's Case: The Issues
This lawsuit against Domino's highlighted a few issues that impact any business that has an online presence.
Issue 1: Accessibility to physical locations
The attorneys and others in the case pointed out that inaccessible websites make it harder for disabled customers to access the goods and services available in Domino's physical location. This was a problem that, as determined by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, violated ADA regulations governing accessibility at places of business.
Issue 2: Accessibility to modern ways of shopping.
Perhaps even more importantly, Robles' lawyers and advocates of individuals with disabilities point out that inaccessible websites make it difficult for persons with disabilities to keep up with modern ways of accessing goods and services.
Online shopping is growing at an exponential rate. In 2018 alone, consumers spent more than $513 billion online. When some people cannot access the Internet in order to conduct their business, they miss out on one of the major pieces of today's digital world. That can present a challenge to these individuals.
Issue 3: Lack of federal standards for online accessibility
One of Domino's arguments against the lawsuit was the fact that there are no federal standards for accessibility to websites. As such, Domino's argued, it was difficult to require businesses to maintain accessible websites.
How could they do so if they don't know what constitutes accessibility? This argument begs the question: How and can businesses ensure accessibility to disabled individuals if there is no definition for accessibility?
The Domino's Case: Lessons for Businesses
The answers to these issues do not have straightforward resolutions. What businesses can take away from situations like the Domino's case is the fact that disabled individuals need and desire access to business's online resources. Being able to provide this access can give businesses a way to earn the business, respect, and loyalty of this customer demographic.
Businesses can also take away the fact that accessibility is quickly becoming expected and may even be a requirement under the ADA laws. Implementing accessibility online can help businesses avoid the increasing number of lawsuits that are being filed around this issue.
How can companies implement accessibility on their sites? By hiring a web development company that understands and can assist with this implementation.
By taking steps to accommodate all of your customers, you can develop an online presence that is appealing, compelling, and easy to use for everyone you want to reach.