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Website ADA Accessibility Lawsuit Dismissed

On March 20, 2017, the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted Defendant Domino’s Pizza LLC’s (“Domino’s”) motion to dismiss an Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claim related to the accessibility of Domino’s website and mobile application. See Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, Case 2:16-cv-06599. The District Court ruled that it would violate Domino’s due process rights to allow the claim to proceed, since the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) had failed to promulgate any accessibility regulations governing websites or mobile applications.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation. The Plaintiff alleged that Domino’s website and mobile application violated the ADA by failing to design, construct, maintain and operate its website and mobile application so that they were fully accessible to the blind or vision impaired by using “screen readers.” While there is an industry guideline for accessibility, known as version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG 2.0”), the DOJ has not promulgated any regulations. The ADA was enacted before widespread use of the internet for e-commerce. The Plaintiff argued that Domino’s was required to comply with WCAG 2.0.
The District Court noted this case was distinguishable from others that had been dismissed against retailers that only conducted business through the internet (since some courts held that the ADA did not apply to pure e-commerce) since Domino’s also maintains brick-and-mortar stores and there was a sufficient nexus between the on-line presence and the stores.
Finding that the DOJ had failed to promulgate any regulations on the requirements that websites or mobile applications would have to meet to comply with accessibility standards, the District Court agreed with Domino’s that allowing the claim to proceed would violate Domino’s right to due process of law. Simply put, Domino’s should not be required to speculate whether compliance with the voluntary industry standard of WCAG 2.0 would constitute compliance with the ADA. This was particularly so where the WCAG 2.0 has 12 guidelines and three different conformance levels (A, AA and AAA), and the DOJ itself has noted that places of public accommodation have a “degree of flexibility” in how they comply with Title III’s requirements. Here, Domino’s provided a telephone hotline for the visually impaired.
The District Court found this case similar to one dismissed against AMC Entertainment, Inc. by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, the Circuit Court found that AMC should not be required to guess at what compliance would require for its stadium seating theaters (regarding comparable “line of sight” requirements), when the government had ample opportunity to promulgate regulations but had failed to do so.
Previously in December 2015, the DOJ announced it was delaying implementing website accessibility regulations until 2018. That said, businesses should begin to consider making their websites and mobile applications accessible now to avoid future risks and litigation (not to mention that making goods and services available to all regardless of disability probably is good business as well).
If you would like us to help you evaluate how this decision may affect you, please contact Frantz Ward attorney Mark Rodio.

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