- The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Domino's Pizza on Monday, deferring to a federal court ruling that a customer with a vision impairment could sue the chain for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because he couldn't sufficiently use its website, according to Fast Company.
- Domino's argued that the ADA does not apply to websites and apps since the law was written before such technology existed in 1990.
- However, the federal court of appeals ruled that Domino's, as a place of public accommodation, is required to provide accessibility through "auxiliary aids and services," even though the chain's website and app are mostly used off-site.
When the ADA went into effect nearly 30 years ago, nobody could have imagined the digital takeover that has occurred since. Eighty-one percent of consumers now own a smartphone, for example, versus 35% in 2011. It has been a steep growth trajectory, but it hasn't necessarily taken place overnight.
Perhaps the Supreme Court recognized that Domino's has had plenty of time and resources to get its digital properties in compliance and update accordingly. As the company's consumers have shifted their ordering habits to digital channels — over 60% of all orders as of 2018 — such ADA compliance updates should be a priority, especially as the company believes it will eventually be a 100% digital business, according to QSR Magazine.
As part of this case, Domino's argued that the effort to make every image, video and audio sufficiently accessible was daunting, especially as online content "constantly changes and grows through links to other content." The company isn't alone in taking this position and, as such, many websites haven't been updated for people with disabilities, according to CNET.
For Domino's, however, the alternative, as the company just learned, is three years and millions of dollars spent fighting a lawsuit only to have to comply anyway.
Such a result will likely cause other restaurant chains to prioritize accessibility across their properties. It could also inspire other customers to hold them accountable in doing so. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts even more lawsuits of this nature.
Law firm Seyfarth Shaw predicted that the number of ADA lawsuits would rise by 30% last year compared to 2017, according to the Los Angeles Times. This trend won't likely change anytime soon, especially with the Domino's precedent. Either chains have to figure out how to comply or expect to defend themselves against these types of lawsuits.