In the United States alone it’s estimated that the annual discretionary spending of people with disabilities is over $490 billion. With that type of money in play, should we even be asking the question “Should websites be accessible to everyone, including the blind?” Surprisingly, this is still a topic for debate.
This article from Gizmodo is a very good overview of the state of litigation concerning accessibility in the United States. Disclaimer: The title of the article contains language that might be offensive to some.
A lawsuit was filed by a blind person against Domino’s in 2016 because he was unable to access all of the features to order a pizza on their website that were available to people who do not have visual disabilities. This case has made its way all the way up to the Supreme Court. That it got this far boggles the mind.
A federal appeals court has ruled that the company has to make its website accessible to comply with the ADA. Inconveniently, the ADA does not specifically mandate companies to create accessible websites and apps because it was written before the rise of the internet. One would think that the spirit of the ADA is obvious, and to make a businesses services available and accessible to the largest number of people possible would make good business sense, but alas, Domino’s is not moved to do so without a fight.
If the Supreme Court decides to hear arguments on the case, the ruling could set a precedent for the future of web design, deciding if companies must make their digital presence as accessible as their brick-and-mortar locations. If only the Department of Justice had updated the ADA to be relevant and inclusive of the technology available in the 21st century, this expensive litigation would be non-existent.
In 2010 the Department of Justice did begin to create a guide to accessible design, but because of politics it was abandoned in 2017. Incredibly, the agency claims that it is still pondering whether such regulations were “necessary and appropriate.”
Fortunately, until the Department of Justices steps up and does its job there are international accessibility standards already in use. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were established by the World Wide Web Consortium, an international community that creates standards for the internet.