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E-commerce

US Supreme Court declines to hear case about online accessibility

The US Supreme Court has declined to review a lower court’s decision to allow a blind man to sue Domino’s for not making its app and website accessible to people with disabilities.

The pizza giant was sued by Guillermo Robles in 2016 after he was unable to place an order online on at least two occasions because the screen reading software he uses did not work properly.

Robles said Domino’s failed to follow common guidance to make its apps and websites more accessible, which was in violation of the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Act barring discrimination against people with disabilities.

Domino’s was hoping the US Supreme Court would review the case and reject the lawsuit on the grounds that the 1990 law was written before the internet and should not apply to websites and mobile apps.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday not to hear the case means the lower court’s ruling stands.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), the retail industry’s peak body in the US, issued a statement expressing disappointment about the decision.

“With a growing number of website accessibility cases being filed and conflicting rulings from circuit courts across the country, this is an issue that needs the clarity of a Supreme Court ruling,” Stephanie Martz, senior vice president and general counsel at the NRF, said.

“Without guidance on what rules should apply, litigation will continue to divert resources from actually making websites accessible.”

According to Reuters, the US Justice Department has yet to issue guidance on how the ADA can be applied online, if at all.

Online accessibility in Australia

Coles faced a similar lawsuit in 2014 after a website upgrade made it impossible for Gisele Mesnage, a customer with a visual impairment, to shop for groceries online.

The retailer settled the case in 2015 and said it was committed to improving the online shopping experience for everyone.

In Australia, equal access to services, including online services and websites, is required by law under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, where it can be reasonably provided.

In addition, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities asserts the right of people with disability to participate in all aspects of society, including the internet and access to information.

The Australian Human Rights Commission told Internet Retailing that some websites, including its own, also abide by the voluntary international standards set out under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

But disability advocacy organisations say more work is needed to raise awareness about the guidelines and ensure more apps and websites are accessible to people with disabilities.

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