Website Accessibility, ADA Compliance, And Domino’s Pizza14 min read
On October 7, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Domino’s Pizza concerning a case on website accessibility. The restaurant chain petitioned the court to rule that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) didn’t apply to modern websites and apps. This petition was denied, meaning that the decision of the lower courts still stands—which in turn means that this case will go to trial.
The outcome of this trial will likely set a new precedent for website accessibility, and could drastically affect the requirements for making your website ADA compliant and accessible for users with disabilities.
Website Accessibility and the ADA
The case began when a blind man, Guillermo Robles, sued Domino’s Pizza after he was unable to order from the mobile app despite using screen reading software. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. Title III of this civil rights law deals with Public Accommodations and directs businesses to make “reasonable modifications” to their usual way of doing things when serving those with disabilities. It also requires that businesses take steps to communicate effectively with customers who have vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.
According to the current interpretation of this law, Domino’s Pizza violated Title III by not making its mobile app accessible to screen reading software. However, Domino’s has argued that the ADA, which was signed into law in 1990, predates the modern internet and therefore does not apply to websites and apps. Additionally, they point out that though the ADA is a strict liability law, there are no firm federal guidelines for businesses on how to make their online experiences accessible.
General Rules for Website Accessibility and ADA Compliance
There is no quick or automatic solution for making your website accessible to all users. To complicate matters, what exactly makes a website or application ADA compliant is still an unsettled matter of law (for now). However, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd stated that businesses have flexibility in how to comply with website accessibility.
For general website accessibility guidelines, The U.S. Courts and the Department of Justice have referenced the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Here’s a brief overview of the general guidelines:
- Descriptive headings and text
- Nested headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, and etc.)
- Not relying on color alone to convey meaning
- Clear and easy-to-use forms
- Clear section labels
- Uniform labels: identical elements should have uniform labels and alt tags
- Clean code (no error pages, broken links, or HTML errors)
- Able to zoom text
- Able to adjust color contrast ratio
- Clear and distinctive links
- Consistent layout and navigation
- Alternative text for images and other non-text content
- No images of text (exceptions include logos, branding, and graph labels)
- Closed captioning for video
- Descriptive captions for tables or provide an easy-to-read version
- Extraneous documents should also meet accessibility standards
- No automatic pop-ups
- No automatic video or audio
- No unexpected changes (such as automatically navigating to another page or changing content unexpectedly)
- No blinking or flashing content
- Able to pause updating/refreshing content
- Adjustable time limits
- Review and correct information on important submissions
- Able to navigate with keyboard only
- Focus indicator box shows on all links and fields
- Skip navigation link available
- Search function on the homepage
- Available sitemap
- Set a default language for the site
Advantages to ADA Compliance
Besides avoiding the obvious legal repercussions, there are other advantages to making your site ADA compliant. It is logical from a communication standpoint to have your website or application accessible to every user. Anyone who is unable to interact with your online presence is a lost connection that negatively impacts your business (and possibly your reputation).
Additionally, search engines tend to look more favorably on easily accessible sites. Making your website accessible for all users also makes it easier for search engines to index your site and understand its purpose. Clear headings with keywords, straightforward content, a user-friendly site design, descriptive alt tags, and closed captioned video content are all examples of SEO and accessibility best practices.
Website Accessibility With DVS
There are changes on the horizon. What exactly they are or how they will impact the digital landscape remains to be seen. The outcome of the Domino’s Pizza case will impact the current iteration of ADA compliance and may even result in new federal guidelines.
If you haven’t already, we recommend that you take action to make your website and other applications easily accessible and ADA compliant. Whether this means updating a few accessibility features or implementing them from the ground up—keeping your website accessible to all users and staying up-to-date with the latest regulations will ensure that your online presence remains strong and vibrant for years to come.
Interested to know the Accessibility Status of your website? Request a free DVS Website Accessibility Review.