Domino’s and the Disabled: Why Accessibility is Just Good Business

October 11, 2019

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What would you do if a potential customer told you they wanted to buy something from your website but couldn’t? You’d probably rush to figure out what was wrong and try to fix it as fast as you could. If someone is trying to give you money, you take it, right?

Well, that’s not what Domino’s Pizza decided to do.

The Backstory

In 2016, Guillermo Robles, who is legally blind, tried to order a pizza from Domino’s website and mobile app only to find that neither of them was accessible with the screen reader he was using (If you don’t already know, a screen reader is a piece of software that allows visually impaired people to browse the Internet and have content read to them).

When Mr. Robles filed a lawsuit against Domino’s, citing the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, he argued that protections for public access shouldn’t just apply to physical buildings – it should also apply to websites and apps. Turns out, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him, saying “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.”

But instead of spending the modest amount of money it would take to update their website and mobile app (and subsequently make it usable by a large and growing segment of the population), they decided to keep fighting, almost all the way to the Supreme Court.

A Supreme Rejection

Fast forward to October 7, 2019, after years of legal challenges (and presumably millions in lawyer’s fees), the Supreme Court denied Domino’s petition to overturn the lower court’s decision – paving the way for Mr. Robles to sue the company.

This isn’t just a blow to Domino’s. It’s a blow to every company that’s been dragging its feet when it comes to making their digital properties accessible. In fact, there were 2,200 similar lawsuits filed in federal court in 2018, almost three times as many as were filed in 2017. With this new ruling, we can expect this number to jump even more in the years to come. Hell, even Beyoncé’s website is being sued for not being accessible. Beyoncé.

The Real Story

While it’s easy to see this as simply a mandate for businesses to get ADA compliant or get sued, something important seems to be getting lost in all the legal wrangling.

There’s a large segment of potential customers who’re being virtually ignored by the market.

That’s crazy. These are people who’re actively trying to buy things and pay for services but who can’t because they’re somehow seen as outliers or edge cases, instead of the valuable consumers they are. That’s a huge missed opportunity.

And before you say that people with disabilities aren’t your target audience, keep this in mind:

  • 1 in 4 U.S. adults have a disability (61 million people)1
  • People with disabilities are considered the fastest growing minority in the world2
  • Households with disabilities spend more per year than household without disabilities3

Can you afford not to cater to this audience?

Getting Started with Accessibility

While there’s no magic plug-in that’ll scan your site and automatically make it accessible, there are plenty of tools available that can help you audit and prioritize the work that needs to be done. To get started, check out our accessibility guide for tips on how to keep your website (and your business) inclusive to everyone.

At 9thWonder, we’ve helped organizations build and maintain websites that both meet accessibility requirements and provide exceptional user experiences. If you’re worried about the potential legal ramifications of a non-compliant website, or want to do a better job of catering to this valuable, growing audience, give us a call.

Because everyone deserves to order pizza online.

Sources:

  1. CDC: 1 in 4 US adults live with a disability
  2. Forbes: An Overlooked and Growing Market: People with Disabilities
  3. AIR: A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults with Disabilities
Andrew Kaufman

Director Of Content Strategy

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