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 9th Circuit Court Rules ADA and Unruh Act May Require Business Website to Conform to WCAG 2.0

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Domino’s Pizza may have to conform its website to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 to ensure that disabled persons have as full and equal enjoyment to its website as non-disabled persons. 

In the case of Robles v Domino’s Pizza (2019) WL 190134 a blind customer brought an action against Domino’s Pizza, alleging that Domino’s website and mobile application for ordering pizza was not fully accessible to him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act (UCRA). The plaintiff, Robles, had attempted to access Domino’s web site using screen-reading software, which vocalizes visual information on websites. On at least two occasions, Robles unsuccessfully attempted to order online a customized pizza from a nearby Domino's. Robles contended that he could not order the pizza because Domino's failed to design its website and app so his software could read them.

This is not the first such case brought in California addressing this issue. Last year a California state trial court in Los Angeles held that the Whisper Lounge restaurant was in violation of the Unruh Act by having a website that could not be used by a blind person with a screen reader and ordered the restaurant to comply with WCAG  2.0 AA.  (See the article “CA Court Rules Unruh Act Requires Website to Conform to WCAG 2.0 AA, But Denies Damages for Multiple Visits to Website”).  

While the law is not entirely settled as to whether a real estate business’s web site qualifies as a place of public accommodation per the ADA, it should be assumed as part of a conservative risk management approach, that it does.

What approach should a business take?

First, as a stop-gap measure before you get your web site up to speed, add a statement to your website that provides contact information and a phone number for anyone having difficulty accessing it (see NAR’s statement at nar.realtor/accessibility). Although it’s no guarantee that you won’t become the target of an ADA noncompliance or Unruh law suit, offering some accommodation for disabled users on your site makes you a less likely target. 

Secondly, and more importantly, you should talk to your website provider about implementing a plan for making your site compliant with WCAG 2.0 AA. This should be done as soon as possible. The Whisperer Lounge trial court decision mentioned above ordered compliance with WCAG Level 2.0 AA. In fact, this Level 2.0 AA is a moving target because the World Wide Web Consortium (which developed the guidelines) has now adopted WCAG 2.1. No one can say if this will eventually supersede WCAG 2.0 to become a new base line standard. (See the article “Is Your Website Compliant and Should It Be?”).  (See NAR’s topic “Complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)” for a variety of resources and references). 

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