Whose Responsibility Is It?

A recent court ruling against Domino’s Pizza highlights a disparity in website and app accessibility. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a Domino’s Pizza appeal, making way for a lawsuit against the pizza chain that its website was not accessible to the visually impaired.

Because there are no laws in the U.S. requiring compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) often becomes the standard for digital accessibility. The problems arise because the ADA was developed in 1990, well before websites and applications were fundamental components of modern living.

While Domino’s says the ADA fails to recognize websites, the federal court of appeals recognizes Domino’s as a “place of public accommodation”, requiring it to provide measures of accessibility for consumers. In this case, “auxiliary aids and services.”

With nothing blocking lawsuits now, Domino’s faces legal challenges over how people access its services. Businesses in many industries are under greater and greater scrutiny, spotlighting the types and numbers of digital accessibility measures companies have put in place. Technology accessibility is a shared responsibility for businesses that extends beyond websites and basic code.

The ruling comes at a time when the restaurant experience is more digital than ever thanks to the growing popularity of things like mobile ordering, delivery, and ghost kitchens. It will also likely trigger more action on the part of restaurant chains to make their digital properties accessible to those with disabilities. This might be the push that is needed. It’s estimated that blindness in the U.S. is expected to double to more than 8 million people by 2050.

The lack of urgency with which many businesses are addressing the accessibility issues is somewhat surprising given that a recent Pew Research poll found that more than 5 billion people own mobile devices, at least half of which are smartphones, and that most transactional experiences are only getting more reliant on digital properties.

So, how should businesses go forward towards inclusiveness and accessibility for all? For starters, companies that operate websites and mobile applications for their businesses should at the very least conduct audits of their websites and mobile applications to assess the level of accessibility for persons with disabilities.