The US resident Guillermo Robles who is blind has tried to order a pizza from Dominos at least twice in recent years, using the company’s website and mobile app. He says that despite using screen reading software, he was not able to order the food because the website is not accessible to blind people. That’s why three years ago Robles filed a lawsuit against the company.
Dominos which is the leading US pizza chain that has pinned its remarkable turnaround nearly a decade ago on investment in technology, now currently fighting the legal battle so they don’t have to make its website accessible to the blind. The eventual result could become a landmark decision over the rights of people with disabilities and the responsibility of companies to retrofit mobile apps and websites for accessibility.
Robles alleged that the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1990 law that requires businesses to make accommodations for those with disabilities, applied to the websites and apps of businesses with physical locations. The federal appeals court agreed, but the supreme court may weigh in. Domino’s is now arguing against the judgment, and the company petitioned the Supreme Court to weigh in with a 35-page document designed to get the court to accept the case.
Moreover, in the document, Domino’s lays out its argument, claiming the cost of accessibility requirements may run into the millions and the rules around what is accessible and what is not have yet to be decided. The company is concerned about the ruling and could result in inconsistent enforcement that results in high costs to businesses.
According to CNBC, the number of lawsuits over inaccessible websites jumped 58 percent last year over 2017, to more than 2,200. A vast majority of the suits have been filed by a group of 10 attorneys. Furthermore, the report suggests an activist coalition intent on building mounting pressure so that a higher court settles the matter once and for all. The Supreme Court is scheduled to reply to the petition when it resumes in the fall, while Robles’ lawyer has until August 14th to file a response.
More to this news, Dominos went under a dramatic tech-infuse redesign of its entire ordering process and pizza design to help save it from dwindling sales and market share. As part of the redesign, the company did everything from its storefronts and logo to its mobile app and website. It followed a surprisingly frank and self-deprecating marketing campaign, in which the company admitted its prior pizzas tasted like cardboard, Domino’s new approach was met with enthusiasm, and its sales began to increase.
It seems odd that Dominos is fighting a lawsuit to make a better website, but the company believes the current status of the lawsuit would make it and every company that runs a website too vulnerable to future suits. According to CNBC, a number of restaurants and retail-friendly groups, just like the Chamber of Commerce and the Restaurant Law Center, have filed briefings in support of Domino’s.