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9th District Court Rules that ADA applies to Websites — Our Take

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned a lower court ruling by affirming that websites are covered by the ADA and stating that Dominos could be forced to comply with WCAG 2.0 as a way to resolve existing ADA non-compliance issues on their website.

… the plaintiff did not seek to impose liability on Domino’s for failure to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, private industry standards for website accessibility. Rather, an order requiring compliance with WCAG 2.0 was a possible equitable remedy.

As advocates for web accessibility, we’ll be interested to to see what ultimately happens now that the case has been referred back to the lower court for further ruling as the ultimate result could set a precedent. With that in mind, Dominos’ site is not the only one that has attracted scrutiny. Beyonce’s official website had a class action suit filed against it in early January with the claim that it violated the ADA by denying visually impaired end users equal access to its products and services. The suit was brought on by a blind woman who could not browse Beyonce.com nor make online transactions on the site without the help of a sighted assistant.

As it turns out these types of lawsuits are on the rise. According to the National Law Review, there’s a trend of class action lawsuits against company websites allegedly in violation of the ADA in 2019. This corroborates a report by a leading provider in digital accessibility and usability that shows a 181% increase in ADA web accessibility lawsuits in 2018 from 2017. Case in point: a blind man sued 50 colleges in November 2018 over violations of accessibility on their websites.

In a perfect world, no one would have to be compelled by the court to ensure their website is accessible, but if there is one thing that GDPR has taught us, threat of legal repercussions can be a convincing motivator when prioritizing accessibility amongst other product efforts. We believe it is vitally important that as an industry we rethink our design/development processes to include accessibility as a first class citizen from the start, instead of an afterthought, much as we have done with website performance.

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