In a defeat for Domino's, the Supreme Court on Monday left in place a ruling that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to websites and mobile apps.
The pizza chain, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had asked the Supreme Court to limit the reach of the 1990 landmark disability rights' law -- which prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating against people with disabilities. The court didn't give a reason for rejecting Domino's request.
The pizza chain was attempting to appeal a decision that stemmed from a lawsuit by Guillermo Robles, who is blind but is able to access websites by using screen-reading software. He alleged in a 2016 complaint that he attempted to place an online order for a customized pizza from Domino's, but couldn't because the company's website and app were not configured in a way his software could read.
Robles argued that Domino's violated the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating against people with disabilities.
A trial judge dismissed Robles' lawsuit. He then appealed to the 9th Circuit, which ruled that businesses with a physical presence and an online presence must make their websites and mobile apps accessible to people with disabilities.
“The ADA mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino’s, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind,” that court wrote in a 25-page opinion.
Domino's sought to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court. “Companies across every industry are battling website-accessibility lawsuits with no consistent message from the courts on whether or how to comply,” the company wrote in papers filed this summer with the Supreme Court. “This Court should intervene immediately so that Congress, not the courts, can decide whether or how to extend the statute it passed in 1990 to the Internet.”
In the past, federal judges in different parts of the country have reached different decisions on the extent to which the ADA applies online. In one high-profile cases, a judge in Massachusetts ruled in 2012 that the disabilities' rights law applies to Netflix. The streaming video company subsequently settled a lawsuit by advocates for hearing-impaired people by agreeing to close-caption streaming video.