With respect to website accessibility, the recent decision of the US Ninth Circuit in Domino’s Pizza, LLC v. Robles, 913 F.3d 898 (US 9th Cir. 2019) requires that any business’ website must be accessible to the visually impaired if the website is used in connection with a physical location. This ruling is based on the court’s interpretation of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) which requires that all places of “public accommodation” be accessible to those with disabilities. The courts have struggled with website accessibility because websites are not physical. However, because many websites “drive” traffic to physical locations, many courts — including the 9th Circuit in the Robles case — have held that websites that are linked to physical locations must be ADA-compliant. This is based on language in the ADA which requires that all persons are entitled to the “full and equal enjoyment” of various places of public accommodation. The logic is that, since websites facilitate access to physical locations like offices and stores, to have “full and equal access” to those physical locations, websites must be accessible to the blind and others with disabilities.
Last week, the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, declined to review the Robles decision. There is rarely an explanation provided as to why any given case is not reviewed. So, it cannot be assumed that the US Supreme Court approves the ruling in Robles. Indeed, a future Supreme Court case might overrule Robles. For now, however, Robles remains the most recent expression of the law here in the Golden State with respect to the ADA and website accessibility. Therefore, businesses are advised to comply with the requirements.
In Robles, the plaintiff sued Domino’s Pizza because she was unable to read and gain information from Domino’s website and mobile phone app. She alleged that she accessed the website and app with the intention of ordering a pizza. The plaintiff was blind and when she accessed the website, she was unable to order a pizza or gain any information. She sued alleging violations of the ADA and the Unruh Civil Rights Act. See, 42 U.S.C. § 12101; and Cal. Civil Code, § 51 et seq. In particular, she alleged that the Domino’s website and app did not comply with what are called the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. These guidelines are maintained by a not-for-profit, non-governmental entity for use by companies that wish to make their websites accessible to the blind. The guidelines deal with the types and methods of installing screen-reading software and embedded coding that allow for the visually impaired to successfully use internet websites. The screen-reading software vocalizes visual information on webpages and describes graphics. Contact an experienced San Diego corporate attorney if you have questions about maintaining compliance for your business.
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For more information, contact attorney Michael Leonard, Esq., of San Diego Corporate Law. Mr. Leonard can be reached at (858) 483-9200 or via email. Mr. Leonard’s law practice is focused on corporate, securities, contract, and intellectual property law for small and medium businesses. Mr. Leonard can assist with the formation of your business entity — corporations, LLCs, and other forms — financing through the sale of debt and equity securities, mergers and acquisitions, contract drafting and review. Like us on Facebook.