Pizza giants Domino’s Pizza kicked off 2019 with a potentially significant defeat before the Ninth Circuit Federal Court in the USA. The Court ruled that Domino’s must make its website and mobile app fully accessible to the visually impaired. The Claimant, who uses screen reader technology to navigate the internet, complained that he could not access certain functions of the company’s online offering. He found, for example, that it was not possible for him to customise toppings or to utilise certain one-off discount codes.
The claim had been rejected at first instance on the basis that, whilst the Americans With Disabilities Act 1990 applies, the US government has not yet handed down standards for online accessibility nor has it offered any technical guidance on the matter. The Appellate Court ruled that a lack of guidance did not get the Company ‘off the hook’. It noted that legislation requiring access to all services for those with disabilities has been on the statute books since the 1990s and that it had been clear since 1996 that the rules extend to websites. The decision, which may well be appealed, has been welcomed by disability rights activists.
Companies in the UK have similar obligations under the UK Equality Act 2000 to ensure that their websites and apps can be accessed by blind and partially sighted people. Software developers and indeed all businesses with an online presence should be mindful of these obligations when developing and upgrading online functionality. Guidelines and practical advice are available in this jurisdiction via the Government Digital Service (GDS) accessibility team.