A ruling by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has been upheld by the supreme court: the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) applies not just to restaurants and stores, but to websites and applications of businesses as well. Historically, ADA has made discrimination in categories such as race, sex, religion, national origin, mental conditions, and physical conditions illegal. Its protections mainly cover public entities and commercial services.
The case came about when a blind man sued Domino’s. The man was unable to order a pizza from their website because their software was inaccessible to the blind. In his case, he cited the ADA, which guarantees equal rights and enjoyment for buying products and services. Domino’s lawyers agreed that the ADA applied to its stores, but not its website.
However, the court ruled that ADA applies to websites and online services.
Disappointment for businesses
Many websites are currently not accessible for a range of disabilities such as blindness and colorblindness. A standard called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) was developed in 2008, but has not seen widespread usage. Last year in June 2018, however, the standard was updated. Despite updated standards, the ruling disappointed many businesses, for whom compliance is another major headache.
For Domino’s, who takes nearly 60% of all orders digitally, it’s a major blow. While the company expects someday to be a 100% digital business, dynamic content is a major hurdle. Domino’s has said that audio, video, and constantly growing online content is a big problem.
Each defendant must figure out how to make every image on its website or app sufficiently accessible to the blind, how to render every video or audio file sufficiently available to the deaf, or how to provide content to those who cannot operate a computer or mobile phone,Domino’s
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts more lawsuits to come in the future, especially as the ruling allows for the possibility of more lawsuits based on the 9th Circuit Court’s decision. While some businesses may rush to WCAG, some firms predict up to a 30% rise in ADA lawsuits next year.
Technology is mainstream
At this point in 2019, technology is now mainstream. The vast majority of humanity spends a significant amount of time per day on a device – whether that’s mobile, desktop, or console. As we spend more time in the digital world, it becomes increasingly regulated. Maybe we risk stifling innovation with increasing regulation, but there are not very many people that will argue that a more accessible internet is a bad thing.