Pizza and ADA Website Accessibility


 Cori Lamont  |    December 09, 2019
Pizza and ADA Website Accessibility

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from everyday activities, including working with a REALTOR¬ģ, attorney, title insurance company and other professionals in a real estate transaction.

Real estate offices are considered places of public accommodation and therefore are obligated to comply with the ADA. To learn more about ADA compliance, see the May 2006 Legal Update at www.wra.org/LU0605. However, in the past several years, there has been confusion as to whether the ADA requirements apply to the websites of places of public accommodation. 

The ADA, enacted in 1990, didn’t address whether websites fell under the purview of the law. However, in 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began a rule-making process to create requirements for public websites and in turn the websites’ accessibility. These requirements, known as WCAG 2.0, were often the standards the DOJ would impose when a consumer’s complaint resulted in a settlement pertaining to accessibility. The DOJ has since suspended the rule-making process.

A recent holding from the United States Court of Appeals, in Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, No. 17-55504, 913 F.3d 898, 2019 WL 190134 (9th Cir. Jan. 15, 2019), reversed the trial court’s decision to delay consideration of whether the ADA applies to websites.

Domino’s Pizza, LLC (Domino’s) owned and operated dominos.com and the related mobile app. A user of the website filed a lawsuit against Domino’s, claiming the website and the app were not accessible for those who used devices for making purchases when utilizing screen-reading devices. Specially, the plaintiff (Robles) claimed that Domino’s did not have a website compliant with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. In response to the lawsuit, Domino’s directed those individuals having trouble accessing dominos.com to a 24-hour telephone number.

Domino’s claimed that the ADA does not currently address website accessibility, and consequently it is a violation of due process to require dominos.com and the app to meet standards the DOJ has not promulgated as a standard. The trial court agreed with Domino’s and postponed consideration of the lawsuit until the DOJ issued its final rules. Robles appealed. 

On appeal, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. Additionally the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed it would violate due process to find that the dominos.com website and the app needed to comply with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. 

Specifically, the court held:

  1. The DOJ intended that the ADA would apply to websites as places of public accommodation. Thus the court found Domino’s had notice of the DOJ’s position that websites were a place of public accommodation. The court further found that the DOJ’s failure to create specific rules did not violate the due process rights of Domino’s because Domino’s knew the dominos.com website and the app were places of public accommodation.
  2. Robles was not seeking to hold Domino’s liable for violating WCAG 2.0 but instead contended as a user that he was unable to access the content of dominos.com and the app, which are places of public accommodation under the ADA.
  3. Whether dominos.com and the app are effective means of communication under the ADA is a fact-based inquiry and thus can be determined by the trial court; therefore, there was no need to wait until the DOJ rules were promulgated. 

Thus the court remanded the case to the trial court. The WRA will keep you informed of any rules finalized by the DOJ as well as the results of the trial court.

Cori Lamont is Senior Director of Legal and Public Affairs for the WRA. 

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