Update 10/7/19: The Supreme Court declined to hear the case which is a blow to Domino’s. The company is subject to January ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Domino’s and other retailers must make its online services accessible. The case is expected to go to trial.
The accommodations available to ensure someone with a visual disability can successfully order the pizza they want at a Domino’s are protected because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For the last 30 years, the ADA has prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services. Should Domino’s have to ensure the same level of accommodation is available for those same folks with visual disabilities through the Domino’s mobile ordering app?
Domino’s is currently testing that question. And the ultimate court ruling could impact nonprofits in huge ways.
Before we get too focused on Domino’s in court, remember that the ADA is something nonprofits comply with today. ADA compliance at your organization may include making your office or program sites physically accessible, adapting employee workstations or hours, ensuring your practices and policies, from benefits to hiring processes, are inclusive and do not explicitly or implicitly discriminate.
So, Domino’s. They are claiming that their mobile app is separate from their physical stores, and the same kinds of accommodations for those with disabilities are not required. However, the panel in Guillermo Robles v. Dominos Pizza LLC believes that the ADA rules do apply to Domino’s online ordering services (the website and mobile app.) They reasoned that the ADA specifies “places of public accommodation” (like restaurants, hotels, parks, museums, daycare centers, as well as many other places where someone would access a service) need to provide alternative ways for folks with disabilities (in this case, visual disabilities and blindness) to participate. And here’s the important part — the ADA applies to the services being offered by a “place of accommodation” and not the physical “place” specifically. The panel connects the app and the physical restaurant and says the app needs to be accessible to someone with a visual disability because the app is used to order pizza from a physical store.
The physical world has long been the focus and definition of the ADA, from wheelchair ramps to sign language interpreters, but the line between offline and online is getting thinner and thinner. A final ruling in the Domino’s case that says the ADA does, in fact, apply to the digital world because of the physical world’s direct connection to the service provided, would result in necessary changes for businesses and nonprofits. NTEN believes this case should conclude with a ruling that provides a precedent definition that the ADA applies to online services because the world is different than it was 30 years ago. Advances in technology have enabled a digital interface for our society that should not be considered unequal to offline spaces.
You’re probably reading this and wondering if you would be compliant. What services or programs do you deliver online that are open to the public? Is your website accessible in general? Are your community calls or webinars captioned? Does your organization have a mobile app, and is it accessible?
I ask those questions and have to admit, NTEN can do better. We’ve publicly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), yet some NTEN pages use a font/color combination that fails readability tests. And we neglected to invite a captioner to our recent community call, so now the recording isn’t captioned. Because the NTEN staff doesn’t use these accommodations, they’re easy to forget. And that’s the point. Our benign indifference results in exclusion and disrespect.
Regardless of potential rulings that could provide further definition of the ADA, accessibility is a hugely important consideration your organization is likely not focused on. Here are three steps to help focus you:
- Use this free and easy to use online tool to get a report about the accessibility of your website
- Ensure that you have folks with disabilities involved in your planning and project processes
- Create a set of questions to help guide staff decision making that includes questions/reminders about accessibility and inclusion