Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, a closely watched website accessibility case, companies may want to brace for the possibility of more lawsuits over websites that can’t be used by people with disabilities.
The SCOTUS decision to decline to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision on Robles means the case will likely go to trial early next year. Guillermo Robles, a blind man, sued Domino’s after he was unable to order food on the pizza-chain’s website and mobile app despite using screen-reading software. His lawsuit contended that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses with physical locations to ensure their websites are accessible to people with disabilities.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Robles, writing that the alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s online platforms to people with visual disabilities violated the ADA. Domino’s then petitioned the Supreme Court to review the decision.
Although Robles involve a customer and not an employee or job applicant, HR departments should take note regardless, says attorney Kristina Launey.
“It’s possible that with the issue of website accessibility being raised by this high-profile case, job applicants might start filing complaints,” says Launey, a labor and employment attorney with Seyfarth Shaw.
Indeed, a recently released study of Fortune 100 career sites by Phenom People found that 89 of them failed to meet digital accessibility requirements. Phenom People analyzed the career sites based on six common Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It found that 89 companies failed at least one standard, while 46 companies failed three or more standards.
“At the very least, companies should audit their own career sites and implement the right technology to address common accessibility matters affecting navigation, site structure, hyperlinks and images that may impede candidates’ ability to find and apply for jobs,” says Phenom People CEO Mahe Bayireddi. “Millions of candidates are at the risk of being excluded due to inaccessible career site practices.”
The process of ensuring that apps and websites are accessible by people with sight- or hearing-related disabilities or other forms of disability may not be cheap nor easy, but it should be a priority nevertheless, says Launey.
HR should familiarize itself with the WCAG 2.0 standards and find an in-house or outside expert who can code in compliance with WCAG 2.0, she says. It’s also important to ensure that, for job applicants who may need a reasonable accommodation in order to complete an application, a career site has contact information for someone to call for help and a statement affirming that the organization does not discriminate and is committed to providing reasonable accommodation for those who need it, she says.
Making career sites WCAG-compliant can be difficult due to factors such as outdated technology and third-party content, says Launey.
“For some companies, it’s not a simple endeavor,” she says.
Companies may also have been waiting for guidance from the U.S. Dept. of Justice on accessibility standards, she says. However, the Trump administration withdrew its rulemaking effort last year.
“I don’t think we’re going to see national standards on this anytime soon,” says Launey.
Even so, companies need to familiarize themselves with the guidelines and criteria for making their sites accessible, she says.
“I think a lot more companies are paying attention to the issue now,” says Launey.