Online Pizza Ordering App Must Be Accessible to the Blind or Visually Impaired

Category: Client Update
Date: Feb 6, 2019 04:31 PM

Guillermo Robles, a blind man who used screen-reading software to access the internet, also used apps on his smartphone.   Robles attempted at least two times to use a website and app to order Domino’s Pizza for delivery (at an exclusive online discount) but was unsuccessful. 

Robles asserted that the website and app were designed in a way that made them inaccessible for visually impaired people, in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  That statute prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of disability.  The federal trial court initially dismissed Robles’ claims on summary judgment, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and allowed Robles to proceed with his lawsuit. 

The Ninth Circuit cited well-settled precedent that “brick and mortar” restaurants offering goods and services are “public accommodations” within the meaning of Title III of the ADA.  They are physical places where goods or services are offered to the public.  The website and app were designed to facilitate access to Domino’s products and services.  Therefore, ADA protections apply:

“[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges….of any place of public accommodation …”  (42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).) 

Under the ADA, Domino’s Pizza was also required to provide Robles with auxiliary aids to enable him to access its goods and services. Auxiliary aids specifically include “accessible electronic and information technology” or “other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available to individuals who are blind or have low vision.” (28 C.F.R. § 36.303(b (2).) A public accommodation must ensure a blind person is not “excluded, denied services, or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services.”

(42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).)  Failure to provide auxiliary aids to make the website and app available to blind or visually impaired people violates the Act.

Because Domino’s online pizza delivery services were public accommodations under the ADA, the Ninth Circuit allowed Robles’ lawsuit to proceed.

Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC (9th Cir. Jan. 15, 2019, No. 17-55504) 2019 WL 190134.

Note:

This case examined Title III of the ADA, which applies to many private entities.  This case still provides guidance for local public entities, however, because Title II of the ADA also protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in services, programs, and activities provided by State and local government entities. Public agencies who offer online bill pay or other web-based public services, for example, should ensure that their online services are ADA compliant.

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