U.S. Supreme Court Passes on Domino’s Case: Commenters Misunderstand
Because of the publicity attending the Domino’s case and internet accessibility, I’m going to be reprinting the comments of Lainey Feingold, an attorney specializing in disability law in my next few posts. Her original post, which may be found at https://www.lflegal.com/2019/10/dominos-comments/
is lengthy and, because it is clearly written and provides a thoughtful explanation of the issues, I’m going to be dividing it up to make it easier to digest. It was originally written on October 14, 2019.
I made a rookie mistake after tweeting about my post on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Order in the Domino’s Pizza web accessibility case: I read the comments. Then I compounded that mistake and read comments on articles about the case on main stream media.
The comments were disheartening.
Some were downright mean and screamingly ableist. Some of that ableism was mixed with racism and sexism. Examples of this type of comment include suggesting that Domino’s call on ICE to investigate the plaintiff Guillermo Robles, who has a Latino-sounding last name. Or a harassing suggestion that a blind person should sue strip-clubs so patrons can “feel the dancers like braille.”
Other comments reflected a profound misunderstanding of the meaning and details of digital accessibility, the nature of blindness, the role of civil rights laws in fostering inclusion and preventing discrimination, and the legal process that led to the Supreme Court’s order.
This post can’t change the hearts and minds of people who left comments bitter and abusive. And I’m not going to try. But perhaps those of us who care about digital inclusion can offer information that might help people better understand what was at stake in the Domino’s case and why we must protect the rights of disabled people to participate in the digital world.
This post is my attempt to do just that.
The Supreme Court Domino’s order is about more than pizza
Many commenters made jokes about the quality of a Domino’s pizza, and the foolishness of wanting to order one on line. These comments miss the significance of the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s October 7 announcement that it would not take up the web accessibility case against Domino’s Pizza left intact an Opinion issued by a federal appeals court in the Ninth Circuit. The ninth is one of eleven circuits that make up the United States federal appeals court system.
The Ninth Circuit Opinion said people with disabilities could sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act about websites and mobile applications they cannot use. The Opinion meant that a blind person’s lawsuit against the pizza chain about its inaccessible website and mobile application would not be thrown out of court. Instead, it would go back to the trial court.
The Ninth Circuit did not decide if Domino’s violated the ADA. The Supreme Court’s order not to second-guess means that (unless the parties settle) the trial court will decide whether Domino’s violated the ADA in this case.
Why all the hubbub about a pizza company website? Because the Ninth Circuit opinion that the Supreme Court left alone was about the core right of people with disabilities to use the ADA to support digital inclusion.
The U.S. Supreme Court could have said the Ninth Circuit was wrong. Could have said the ADA was useless in the digital age. Could have given organizations a green light to develop technology that only some people can use.
So the case is about more than pizza. It is about students who need accessibility to graduate. And voters who are locked out of democracy if they cannot use voting websites because of lack of access. It is about patients who want to confidentially review medical records and need accessibility to do so. Account holders who want private access to their online financial information.
And yes, about disabled customers who want to order pizza (and other products and services) online like everyone else.
A different Supreme Court outcome could have eliminated ADA rights. It doesn’t mean everyone will win their lawsuits about digital inclusion, but it does mean the ADA remains a source of rights in the digital age.