January 15, 2020 by Ben Chafetz

Supreme Court Opens Door for Disabled to Sue Retailers with Non-Accessible Websites

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court cleared the way for blind individuals to sue retailers with websites that are not accessible or ADA-compliant.

What does this mean for the future of Magento and other eCommerce platforms? In this blog, we take a look at this story, and what it can tell us about the importance of building Magento websites that are accessible to all.

The History Of The Case – Domino’s Vs. Guillermo Robles

The history of this recent Supreme Court case traces back about three years.

Guillermo Robles, a blind man, filed suit against Domino’s in Los Angeles. The bulk of his complaint related to his inability to order a pizza from Domino’s website due to a lack of accessibility and software that would allow him to communicate with the website – such as compatibility with screen readers or voice navigation.

In his suit, Robles cited the ADA which guarantees that people who have a disability will be given “full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services…of any place of public accommodations.”

Robles believed that this provision applied to the Domino’s website. Lawyers from Domino’s disagreed – saying that it applied to its brick-and-mortar stores, but not to its website. 

The ruling in the 9th Circuit Court was in favor of Robles. The justices said that the law applied to online services, as well as the brick-and-mortar stores of Domino’s – and every other retailer.

An Appeal To The Supreme Court Falls Flat – Despite Plenty Of Lobbying 

Naturally, many business owners were not happy about the decision that websites must be ADA-compliant. Some saw it as “imposing a nationwide website-accessibility mandate.” The U.S Chamber of Commerce and business groups representing over half a million restaurants and 300,000 businesses lobbied to appeal and get the Supreme Court to review the case.

But in late October, the Supreme Court outright refused to hear the case of Domino’s Pizza vs. Robles, essentially denying the appeal. While this is not an outright confirmation of the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling, it does strongly suggest that retailers will now – legally – be forced to ensure their websites are ADA-compliant, or risk fines and lawsuits.

So, What Does This Ruling Mean For Business Owners?

Barring the Supreme Court changing its mind and deciding to hear the case – and deciding against Robles – it means that websites must be treated as “public spaces” under the ADA. This means that disabled people must have equal access to – and equal ability to use – websites and mobile applications. This could include hotels, retail stores, restaurants – and yes, eCommerce stores, in some cases. The ADA covers the following types of businesses:

  • Places of public accommodations (Title III) 
  • Businesses that operate more than 20 weeks a year with at least 15 full-time employees (Title I)

However, even if your business or website does not fall within these categories and ADA compliance is not required, it’s a good idea to build an ADA-compliant website.

As this recent ruling shows, the usability of the internet and various websites for disabled people is a serious issue and one that’s sure to be subject to future litigation. Failure to implement ADA-compliant features into your Magento store or another website could open you up to future legal troubles.

How Do I Create An ADA-Compliant Website?

So, what goes into an ADA-compliant website? There are a few different features that are often implemented to help create more accessible websites. Some examples of these include:

  • Screen reader support – Screen readers are programs that allow blind or visually-impaired people to use a text-to-speech software or a braille reader to understand the text content of a website, announce the location of the computer’s cursor, read highlighted text, and identify the active choice in a menu, among other things.

    To help enhance screen reader support, your website can support things like descriptive titles, headings and labels which help explain the context of a link or button, helpful and descriptive error messages, and multiple navigation mechanisms (such as a sitemap/search as well as standard navigation menus). All of these things can enhance usability for individuals using screen readers.
  • High contrast text & resizing Users who are visually impaired but still may be able to read could have trouble with low-contrast text or text that is very small. Offering options to resize text and a “high contrast” mode can help make your website more usable for those who may have trouble with certain kinds of text and images.
  • Voice navigation Voice navigation software may be used by people with disabilities that prevent them from speaking, or from using a keyboard, mouse or touch screen. Often, web content must be properly designed and coded to support voice navigation, and support things like copy and pasting text, scrolling, activating menu buttons, and other such functions.

These are just a few of the changes that could be implemented to make a website ADA-compliant. Most of these changes are mostly relatively simple and have to do with how information is presented to individuals with disabilities, and how they can interact with the website using non-traditional input methods.

With just a small investment, you can make sure that your website is ADA-compliant and that it can be used by folks with physical and mental limitations and disabilities. Not only does this protect you from legal liability, but it’s the right thing to do. 

In addition, making your website easy to use for people who have disabilities means that you are more likely to win their business – which can actually enhance your profits! 

Need Help Building An ADA-Compliant Magento Website?

If you’re interested in building an ADA-compliant Magento website or updating your website to be more accessible to individuals with disabilities, we  can help.

We’ve helped many companies become ADA compliant to avoid costly legal battles and can help make your Magento site follows all relevant ADA guidelines and is functional for individuals with disabilities.

Interested in learning more? 

Download our ADA whitepaper or contact us to schedule an call to to discuss our ADA and accessibility services for Magento in further detail.

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