Court sides with visually impaired customers in requiring retailers to have web access.
This blog borrows heavily from an LA Times article by David Savage which can be read here.
Three years ago, Guillermo Robles decided he wanted to order a pizza. Robles, who is visually impaired, went to the Domino’s Pizza website and was unable to order due to the site lacking the necessary programming features a blind person needs to order. Citing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), he sued the pizza giant, citing the ADA, which guarantees to persons with a disability “full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services … of any place of public accommodations.”
Domino’s argued that the ADA applied only to their retail establishments, which lawyers argued were fully compliant.
Last year, however, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Domino’s, citing that the law applied to its online services as well as the stores. On Monday, October 7, the Supreme Court said it would not hear the case of Domino’s Pizza vs. Robles, though they could take up the case if further court decisions are split. For now, the Court’s action strongly suggests that all retailers must make all services accessible online as well as at brick and mortar establishments.
While a lot of interesting discussion should be had on many aspects of this case, the important thing to consider is if your website is ADA compliant and what steps you should take to safeguard your business. We understand that most companies in our region are smaller than Domino’s, but that does not exclude a company from the danger. In fact, we have seen ADA complaints against relatively small companies.
There are three levels of ADA compliance:
- Level A allows screen readers to more effectively scan a site, but does not make your site compliant by current legal standards.
- Level AA includes all Level A criteria and additional features for accessibility for the disabled. This level allows for more flexible design choices, but rises to a standard that is acknowledged as meeting the needs of most visually impaired people as required by the law. Most companies should strive to attain this level.
- Level AAA captures all conformance factors at the highest possible level. While this is the most comprehensive level of website conformance, it is a level that is really focused on reaching people with disabilities, while limiting design options that most people find appealing.
Every website we design at Access is done with an eye toward ADA compliance. We believe this to be both practical and ethical. We also help companies with existing websites identify issues of accessibility. We recommend the following plan to demonstrate good faith should an issue arise:
- Get compliant. If you have never considered compliance, check your website. There are many free tools online that can help you identify compliance issues, but most tools identify so many issues it can be overwhelming. You should enlist the aid of a competent web professional.
- Stay compliant. One of the problems we’ve seen is that when companies get their website ADA compliant and have a content management system that allows for staff to do updates, it can get off track in terms of compliance because the upload files (PDFs are often a big culprit) are not compliant.
- Address any issues that are called to your attention immediately.
- Schedule regular compliance reviews. Have a plan and a published schedule concerning compliance reviews. Depending on your site and usage, monthly or quarterly is probably appropriate.
- The vendor or staff conducting the review should produce a formal report which details corrections needed and the date of the next planned review.
Note that current legal rulings seem to concern only businesses that serve a public-based client base, but ADA compliance is good business for B2B and other organizations as well. If you wish to talk more about a compliance review, reach out to DeShea Witcher, Director of Digital Marketing at Access.
This column is not intended to offer legal advice, rather represents a Best Practice for marketing.