by Kevin Burton
A leading American pizza chain has turned its back on potential blind customers.
Domino’s Pizza believes it should not have to make its website accessible to software used by the blind. It has taken the question to the US Supreme Court.
California resident Guillermo Robles sued Domino’s in 2016 after twice trying to order pizza online but finding its website inaccessible. In January, the Ninth Circuit Court reversed a lower court ruling and said that Dominos must make changes to its website that would allow blind customers to use it.
Instead of making those changes, Domino’s appealed to the high court, which will decide this fall whether to hear the case.
In this effort, Domino’s has the support of big-money national business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Restaurant Law Center, according to Eater, a network of websites that covers food and dining in major cities.
Robles’ suit was based on provisions in the Americans With Disabilities Act, a 1990 law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Those who crafted the ADA did not foresee the degree to which the Internet would become important in commerce and life in general.
In its appeal to the high court, Domino’s questions whether company websites are extensions of the brick and mortar stores and thus subject to the ADA. Court rulings on that point have gone both ways.
You may think it obvious that companies should not be allowed to build barriers online any more than they should be allowed to build physical barriers at a store. But in 1990 the ADA was not written with the Internet in mind. So Domino’s, for now, has at least some sort of case.
Domino’s is the leading seller of pizza in
the United States, according to QSR
Magazine, a publication that covers the quick-service restaurant industry.
Among pizza chains, Pizza Hut is a close second. The magazine ranks Domino’s
ninth among all quick service restaurants.
Other sources rate Pizza Hut first in sales. By all accounts it’s a hot battle for the top spot. In a reader’s preference survey, Consumer Reports ranks Domino’s tied for sixth.
Some advocates for the blind believe a ruling in Domino’s favor could embolden other companies to ignore accessibility issues of importance to the blind.
In my high school days in Columbus it was a big night when two or three of us could scrape together enough money to order a pizza. For me it was always Domino’s pizza. They never disappointed. At that time it was part of the mosaic of our uncomplicated teenage lives, from the smell, to the taste, to that domino on the box.
There Domino’s sat in sweet memory, until one day about nine years ago when my then girlfriend and I stumbled upon a Domino’s restaurant in Wichita. I had kind of forgotten about Domino’s. For old times’ sake (my old times, not hers) we ordered our standard fare, pepperoni, mushrooms and Italian sausage.
This pizza was not at all like I remembered. It tasted like cardboard injected with salt. I could see the cheese but couldn’t taste it. The sauce was bland. Truly terrible.
But it is the disregard for the needs of blind customers that leaves the worst taste of all.
One thought that comes to mind of course, boycott Domino’s. Why not? I’m all for it. But in my case, this begs the question of the definition of “boycott.”
Can I really be said to be boycotting a restaurant, when there is no way I would go anyway, when the pizza doesn’t taste much better than the box it comes in?