In a relatively new approach to ADA compliance lawsuits, plaintiffs have begun to challenge accessibility features of commercial websites. Allegations of this new type of lawsuit often center on the lack of adequate accessibility for vision impaired disabled users of websites.
A prime example of this new approach was recently tested in a Central District Court in California. In Robles v. Domino's Pizza, LLC, the plaintiff was a visually impaired individually who alleged that he was unable to access the menus or make orders using Dominos’ website and mobile app. The plaintiff claimed that the lack of accessibility rose to the level of a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Although the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim in Robles, it did so on grounds that may not remain much longer. The district court found that Dominos’ had a due process right to know the minimum guidelines for compliance with any ADA accessibility requirement for its private website and that the DOJ had not provided any such guidelines. Therefore the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim without prejudice, essentially saying that once the DOJ issues rules covering accessibility for private websites (which the DOJ has been in the process of preparing for over seven years) the plaintiff would have the opportunity to allege his claims in a separate lawsuit.
The Robles case represents somewhat of a reprieve for private companies facing questions about what level of disability accessibility they must offer through their websites. However, at some point in the future, the DOJ will finalize rules covering this issue. For companies that find themselves out of compliance, there are no doubt plaintiffs out there ready to pounce. In the Robles case, the plaintiff simply pounced too early.
For companies wishing to get ahead in this area, they may want to review the Department of Justice’s bulletin (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking). The Notice gives insight into how the Department views accessibility issues, but readers should note that no rule has yet been issued by the DOJ. The fact that seven years has passed since the Notice was issued without a final rule illustrates some of the complexity of the issue.
Robert L. Shipley, recognized as one of the top employment attorneys in the area, can help with ADA compliance should you have questions. From labor laws to class action settlements and collection litigation, Mr. Shipley is always there for his clients. Call our law firm today to get started.