Politics

Supreme Court hands victory to blind man who sued Domino's over site accessibility

Key Points
  • The Supreme Court denied a petition from pizza giant Domino's on Monday to hear whether its website is required to be accessible to the disabled, leaving in place a lower court decision against the company.
  • The case was originally brought by a blind man named Guillermo Robles, who sued the pizza chain after he was unable to order food on Domino's website and mobile app despite using screen-reading software.
  • The decision not to grant the case is a loss for the company and a win for disability advocates, who have argued that if businesses do not have to maintain accessible sites, disabled people could be effectively shut out of substantial portions of the economy.
The company's logo across the front of an awning marks the location of a Domino's restaurant in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

The Supreme Court denied a petition from pizza giant Domino's on Monday to hear whether its website is required to be accessible to the disabled, leaving in place a lower court decision against the company.

The decision not to hear the case is a loss for the company and a win for disability advocates, who have argued that if businesses do not have to maintain accessible sites, disabled people could be effectively shut out of substantial portions of the economy.

The decision from the justices was announced in an order.

The case was originally brought by a blind man named Guillermo Robles, who sued the pizza chain after he was unable to order food on Domino's website and mobile app despite using screen-reading software.

Read more: A blind man couldn't order pizza from Domino's. The company wants the Supreme Court to say websites don't have to be accessible

Attorneys for Robles argued in court papers that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses with physical locations to make their websites and other online platforms accessible to those with disabilities.

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A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Robles, writing that the "alleged inaccessibility of Domino's website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises—which are places of public accommodation."

Domino's urged the Supreme Court to review the decision. By declining to do so, the court's decision on Monday will leave the ruling in place, meaning Domino's will have to fight Robles' accessibility claims in court.

Attorneys for Domino's, backed by a range of business groups, had argued that the ADA does not apply to online platforms that were not envisioned when the law was passed in 1990. And, they said, no clear rules exist for how to make their platforms properly accessible.

Robles' attorney, Joe Manning, said in a statement Monday that the decision was "the right call on every level."

"The blind and visually impaired must have access to websites and apps to fully and equally participate in modern society - something nobody disputes," he said. "This outcome furthers that critical objective for them and is a credit to our society."

Domino's said in a statement that it was disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision, but "we look forward to presenting our case at the trial court."

"We also remain steadfast in our belief in the need for federal standards for everyone to follow in making their websites and mobile apps accessible," the company said.

The lawsuit is one of an increasing number filed over website accessibility in recent years. Last year, more than 2,200 such suits were filed in federal courts, according to the accessible technology firm UsableNet, nearly tripling the number a year before.

The case is known as Domino's Pizza v. Guillermo Robles, No. 18-1539.

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