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Domino’s asks SCOTUS to shut down a lawsuit requiring its website be accessible (theverge.com)
44 points by aaronbrethorst 74 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 72 comments



> In the document, Domino’s lays out its argument, claiming the cost of accessibility requirements may run into the millions, and the rules around what is accessible and what is not have yet to be decided.

This is a dense argument. There are well-established web content accessibility guidelines, aptly named Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Android has accessibility features built-in, and I'd guess iOS does too, despite having never used it myself. Nothing about this is particularly costly. WCAG has been around for over a decade...so what is Domino's angle, really? For a company that seems to embrace tech, this makes no sense.


I have no personal knowledge of this case but having helped companies with their Accessibility deficits in the past I have seen resistance from Marketing who believes that their color scheme is the sole reason anyone uses the site-- despite not having strong enough contrast in colors. And some executives just do not like being told they have to do something


>so what is Domino's angle, really?

Regulations require us to do something. We don't feel like doing something. Waaaaaa.

(i.e., the usual; cf. Boeing and FAA, etc)


> WCAG has been around for over a decade

Following the WCAG won’t stop you getting sued (or more likely, getting a letter threatening a lawsuit unless you pay a ‘settlement’).


You may get a drive by lawsuit from a lawyer looking for a quick buck, but you will likely defend it quite well.


Having struggled with it, here's the most charitable reason I can give:

First, remember that the blind have always been able to order pizza by just calling in with a phone. Domino's is serving the blind in that sense.

The case here is about them being unwilling to provide an online-only discount to the blind. So why are they paying so much to defend, specifically, a blind-inaccessible, online-only discount?

They offer an online discount, I think, because they get so much more valuable data from it. Like most websites, sadly, their site loads you down with a torrent of trackers.

What does that have to do with being accessible? Well, if the blind can easily navigate to the important parts of a site, so can their screen-reader ... and so can any program. Then, anyone, not just the blind, can bypass all the crap on their site when ordering, and even shut out the trackers.

Where's the flaw in my logic?

tl;dr: Anything that helps the blind navigate their site also helps you bypass tracking, and makes an online-only discount unprofitable.


I don't believe accessibility is really mutually exclusive with dynamic sites anymore. As long as your scripts result in an accessible DOM, you can change it. Identifying the tracking scripts from the main scripts is just what ad blockers do, no?


> Where's the flaw in my logic?

They make a lot more money from selling pizza than from tracking you, and if someone who is blocking trackers can't reasonably order pizza, Dominos would be shooting themselves in the foot.

If their website doesn't work for <my browser configuration>, I'm not going to pick up a fucking phone. I'll just order from any other pizza place in my vicinity.

The likely reality is, they are lazy, and don't want to spend dev effort to be compliant.


The devs are lazy but the lawyers are hard working enough to bring a case to the supreme court? Surely the amount of effort to have a case there is less than the effort required to make the site meet some accessibility guidelines.


Domino‘s is a pizza company, not a tech company. I would be surprised if they have the resources or are willing to have developers go over the software with a fine toothed comb.

The devs may not be lazy but the company probably doesn‘t want to spend time and effort on this, or, gasp, hire more people.


Actually, Domino's has spent a massive amount on tech over the last 15 years. They pioneered online ordering at scale, real-time order tracking and the system that runs the store allows corporate to get metrics on everything from individual pizza production times to length of trip and travel time. They have a huge tech dept.

Source - former franchisee


Most companies wouldn't be stupid, or penny-wise, pound-foolish enough to litigate this sort of thing, but it's not unreasonable to think that there's always the exception that proves the rule.


I develop mobile apps for a large corp, who have decided to deliver maximum accessibility. And I can tell you that accessibility is hard to get right. I estimate implementing good accessibility and fixing accessibility bugs in Android takes around 20-25 % of our total effort.


For perspective, in the previous quarter Domino's reported revenues of over $800 million and profit of over $90 million.

But I guess spending a couple of days' worth of profit on complying with the law is just too much to ask.


Hell I will do it for a million in the next 6 months.


I remember doing a redesign of a major European government website where accessible was a priority. We worked together with Jaws (leading developer of Screen Readers. No affiliate) to find a way to determine if the user was using a screen reader. They made a few adjustments to their app in order for us to do that and we proceed with the plans of making a text only version of website when a screen reader was detected.

This was shot down by the government lawyers as this was against the "equal access rule". Redirecting users to a different version of the website was determined to be the equivalent as building a separate entrance to a government building optimized for wheal chairs users which is against the law. The law clearly states that all citizen must have same access to government facilities and that was determined to mean "the same entrance" and "same facilities within the building".

So an optimized, text only, edition of the website for screen readers was ruled out and screen reader users was left with a sub-optimal experience ... but hey they get to use the same URL as everyone else so there is nothing for them to complain about.

(This is 10 years ago. Dont know if things has changed since. I hope it have)


> screen reader users was left with a sub-optimal experience ... but hey they get to use the same URL as everyone else so there is nothing for them to complain about.

Sure, if the website is sub-optimal, the users are free to complain about it (and file a lawsuit, depending on the country and laws). From my experience, UX and Accessibility go hand in hand. So if your website is sub-optimal for screen reader users, I can almost guarantee it will be sub-optimal for other people as well.

In theory, this is a false dilemma - it's not either a highly optimal version for screen reader users vs. a sub-optimal experience with the default version. The third option is to "simply" make the default version accessible (which indeed may mean _a lot_ of work = money, especially for legacy projects).

It's like creating a separate version of your website just for mobile devices. This pattern was used a lot in the past, but not that much anymore. If you build your website with mobile and accessibility in mind (mobile-first, a11y-first), you get an overall better experience.

> We worked together with Jaws to find a way to determine if the user was using a screen reader.

This is basically the opposite of what I just wrote. There was a big uproar regarding the new Apple feature [0] for doing exactly that.

> Dont know if things has changed since.

My personal anectode: I was part of a complete re-write of a big airline website and we followed the mobile- and a11y-first approach with much success. I think the major part of our success was having _everyone_ on board from day one: designers, developers, testers, product managers and customer had all been working with accessibility in mind.

[0] https://axesslab.com/digital-apartheid/


> The law clearly states that all citizen must have same access to government facilities and that was determined to mean "the same entrance" and "same facilities within the building".

That seems insane to me. You're telling me government buildings don't have any stairs whatsoever?


The developers of JAWS may have added the code needed to detect it, but that still leaves several screen readers without such an implementation (thankfully because this is a terrible idea).


If you own an iPhone/iPad, much has changed. These devices include the best features for accessibility.


It is possible to make a website accessible using existing tools and guidelines but you can make a much better experience if you build a dedicated edition of your website to use by screen readers.

This would be the equivalent of publishing 2 versions of your iPhone app. One highly optimized for blind people and another version for everyone else.

Although the iPhone has great accessibility an separate optimized version of your app would provide an even better user experience but that we were not allowed to do.

The idea for the text only edition was an idea that was formed by a group of blind people and was the solution they said was the optimal solution for them


Your approach is an antipattern. It works great for five minutes after you launch. Then you need to maintain multiple versions of the site. And inevitably the two versions start to diverge. And guess which version will get short shrift? There's even a term for this. "Separate but equal". Said sarcastically. No offense, but I recommend you research this a bit more.


How can you optimize for Safari support?


If you have use of your fingers?

Didn’t Stephen Hawking use Windows because it had the best accessibility?


Wasn’t it Domino’s who claimed to be a “tech company which happened to sell pizza”? If so, that quote says they should know better IMO


The fact that this case has gone to the supreme court shows how difficult it is for companies to understand that excluding a whole segment of the population should not be treated as a business advantage. I get it. It's expensive but there should be a compromise.

I've dealt with having to make a site accessible. There are a lot of mods that you need to make that are mostly not noticed by most users but are a bear to keep up to date with a constantly changing website and will add many hours of work to the website's upkeep. Also if you stick by the strict guidelines there are web technologies that can't be used - especially the newest tech. Long term it's easier to maintain 2 sites with different UIs but again that takes many hours of extra manpower.

I'm one that believes accessibility is a must but I also realize that most companies aren't willing to spend the extra money.

What's the fix? A compromise like having a very simple web site or it might be having an alternative system where accessibility means having someone help you with the site via phone. But fighting all the way to the supreem courts so you don't have to do any thing is not the answer.


This would be a good project for the United States Digital Service. Define what reasonably accessible means and provide lists and freely available code that government agencies and and businesses can use to create accessible websites.


Domino’s position makes more sense if you take them at their word: the problem isn’t technical, it’s that there’s no legal (rather than industry) standard for what makes a website accessible. Corporations don’t like legal uncertainty, and what I suspect Domino’s is after is for the Court or Congress to articulate a standard (or, more likely, point to an existing standard, giving it the force of law) so that all web sites have common and stable accessibilty guidelines.


Maybe, but then Domino's marketing people would surely have been all over making that clearly indicated "we're only fighting this to bring clarity because accessibility is so important to us" or somesuch.


You ever think how this might apply to, ianno, startups?

Seems like all humans should be on Domino's side, at least all techies.

Edit: before the cacophany decends to tell me how easy accessibility is, let me preemptively highlight that opportunity cost is the fundamental unit of cost to a startup. And this is a ycombinator site. So everyone should already know this.


I think making all startup web applications more accessible would be a great improvement for everyone, especially techies. A webpage that’s accessible is also easier to script or remix.

Why would anyone oppose this? Is the only way to get your startup off the ground to walk over visually impaired people? Restaurants have razor thin margins too but I’ve never heard of any restaurant looking to save a buck by limiting wheelchair access.


Unfortunately looking to save a buck by limiting wheelchair access is frightfully common. That's why people have to get sued under the ADA.

The point of the ADA is to make violating it more expensive then complying with it.


I agree, all websites should be accessible. The question, however, isn't about what websites should do, but about what websites must do, and I don't think it's morally justifiable to force a website to make their content accessible.

Are we going to force Domino's to offer Braille menus? What about menus in Russian? Or large print menus and menus?

No. I believe a company shouldn't be forced to accommodate everyone who may want their products, though I certainly think they should do it voluntarily. In fact, I'd support boycotts and critical press about it, but not a law.


Personally, I'm torn on this. On the one hand, I don't like the idea of requiring this for all websites. And so pressing it on every startup feels like overreach, since many of them are much closer to "niche site" than "website for the general public."

OTOH ... big sigh here. It's really, really depressing that we've reached the point where websites, and their typical toolchains, are so bloated that it's considered a burden at all to make your site accessible. HTML is basically designed to be blind-friendly! The only reason it's a noticeable burden at all is because everyone's bought into stupid patterns that make their sides so inelegant, non-functional, and meth-addled.

If we use an unusually big stick to slap website conventions back into sanity, I'm probably not going to lose a lot of sleep over it.


Hang on... Three points

1) Obviously accessible is better. Everyone agrees. When all cost is opportunity cost, do things that don't scale. Target your market aggressively. Cut your market to reduce your opportunity costs of getting to a revenue stream, then expand your market.

2) the more burdens you place in the market, the more you favor established players and make it more difficult and costly for startups to happen and succeed.

3) since when did not spending the time to build something for blind people equal walking over them? They're a valuable part of the market, to be sure, but come on. I can't sell a product to seeing people until i build in functionality for blind people? This is why the federal register is so large. Pointless crusades from short sighted busybodies.


should vs must my dude.

It should be accessible, I disagree that it _must_ be accessible.


Alternative view: Everyone should have access to the internet no matter their physical limitations but making that a reality sounds like a huge and expensive problem, how can we "techies" on HN use technology to solve that problem?


It's already solved on the web. Fancy use of "technology" is what breaks it!


Kind of.

Using fancy frameworks and scripts can certainly break things unnecessarily, but there are some things that require significant labor to make accessible no matter what you do.

Suppose I want to put my vacation photos on my personal website. I took a thousand of them. But a blind person can't see photographs; do I have to sit there and caption them all now? That's going to take hours. If that's required I'm just not going to post them.

You get the same sort of problem with universities posting course lecture videos. Recording the class costs almost nothing on top of not recording it (just station a camera in the back of the room), but having someone sit there and closed caption all the lectures would add a full time employee who does nothing else. When they're posting the videos for free use of the public, some schools are just going to choose to stop publishing them instead of picking up that level of expense in exchange for no compensation from anyone.

And if you want to suggest speech to text software as a solution, isn't that better accomplished by building it into the client rather than the website, so that it works everywhere? But then we shouldn't have laws that mandate it the other way.


Bummer that you're being down voted as it is a legitimate concern. Someone will eventually have to decide at what point a website has to be accessible, ie minimum views, minimum ad revenue or goods sold, etc.

And the lower that bar is then the higher the barrier to entry for a web presence for anyone.


Or it means people should use better tools. Making HTML easy for screen readers isn’t exactly difficult. It works by default! Developers add complexity which breaks it only by choice.


"You are required by law to make you site usable by an entire class of almost entirely proprietary 3rd party software with widely varying quality and features and who will definitely not take advantage of the fact that every major site has to legally be compatible with them."

There is the accessibility standard but is Domino's on the hook when it's not enough to actually use the site with some applications?


Accessibility is a cost of doing business. One of the requirements of operating a business in the US is that you can not discriminate against people within a protected class. If a startup can't follow reasonable accessibility requirements then I'm of the view then it has already failed.


I think there's a difference between discrimination and not going out of your way to accommodate. I don't think you can discriminate accidentally, it must be intentional.

That being said, I don't know the legal precedent on this, I'm just talking from what I consider moral.

You shouldn't have to lower all of the shelves (or provide ladders) just because really short people exist, but if your employees refuse to assist when asked, then you have a problem. Likewise, Dominos will help blind people at their stores or over the phone, so there's still a way for them to reasonably order food from them.

I don't think Dominos should be forced to make their website accessible, though they certainly receive the negative press.


I can understand why considering this to be a difference makes sense when you are considering it from the perspective of personal morality. However I'm coming to it more from the perspective of wanting to remove impediments to disabled people having equivalent access to able people. Now from that perspective it doesn't matter to the person with disabilities if the company is acting deliberately in a discriminatory fashion or they are doing it out of ignorance it still creates an impediment.

The thing is that most sources of impediments to disabled people come from people creating procedures, designs or structures and not considering that not everyone has the same abilities. There are few people who have malice against people with disabilities so having deliberate acts of discrimination be the threshold would not be effective in solving the problem.

I don't think we should even consider this from the perspective of morality or punishment. Corporations are amoral profit maximisers by their nature. When corporations don't create accessible sites what they save by not creating an accessible site is paid by the people with disabilities. The ability to sue over ADA violations is a way to capture this negative externality.


Accessibility helps everyone. All humans should be on the side opposite Domino's here.


Trying to be non-snarky here: How does it help someone who doesn't need any of today's typical accessibility features?


Accessible design tends to be easier to read in general, helping everyone. Non-blind people may like to use a screen reader so they can do stuff by ear. I suspect a lot of HN readers like to navigate web sites by keyboard, something a lot of sites fail at and something accessibility design ensures. Lots of people who would never describe themselves as "disabled" require corrective lenses and accessibility can help them when their glasses are in the next room. And everyone will reach that point eventually, unless they die young. So my post was not 100% correct. There are some people who do not benefit from accessibility at all: those who are in excellent health and will die a sudden death before they age too much.

More discussion about how both digital and physical accessibility helps everyone:

https://blog.ai-media.tv/blog/why-designing-for-accessibilit...

https://medium.com/@mosaicofminds/the-curb-cut-effect-how-ma...

https://www.npr.org/2015/07/24/423230927/-a-gift-to-the-non-...


> Accessible design tends to be easier to read in general, helping everyone.

This is not necessarily so. I develop mobile apps for a large corp. Our designers are often told by the accessibility team to change their design in ways that make the more accessible, but reduce the usability for normal users. I'm talking about simple controls that most people take for granted, like date/time pickers, carousels etc.


Can you give a specific example?


Thank you, that's exactly the kind of answer I was looking for.


Glad to be of service. It's not obvious if you don't already know about it, but once you do, you start to see how "accessibility" is so much more than "accommodate a few disabled people."


You may not need any of the features today.

What about your older customers? I have it on good authority old people also enjoy pizza.

And how do you know you're not going to need that accessibility when you least expect it? You don't wake up expecting a retinal detachment or an accident, but sometimes shit happens.

And, though I'm a designer and not a developer, accessibility has had a strong correlation with technical debt. Semantic class names, well structured HTML, not rendering your headline fonts as a bitmap so you can have your on-brand typeface…accessible code tends to go along with resilient code.


How do you think search engines work?

Making pages that a program can easily read is pretty fundamental to how everyone uses the web.


1336X768 laptop and desktop screens which are unreadable in natural light are still sold in India. Our designer made a UI with white on wine-red and and it was a pixelated mess bleeding into the background on our developers' machines.


It doesn't, but even that person might need accessibility tomorrow — like literally tomorrow. I suspect that most anyone who breaks their leg quickly becomes a fan of the ADA.


The interesting thing is: you'd expect pizza companies to be in the bottom of the list of companies to be sued for accessibility, since you can just call and order very quickly


hey Zeach, I made another agar.io clone. This time with websockets http://g69io.herokuapp.com/


> But these suits put their targets in an impossible situation. Unless this Court steps in now, defendants must retool their websites to comply with Title III without any guidance on what accessibility in the online environment means for individuals with the variety of disabilities covered by the ADA

I'm with Dominos. No reasonable person would expect a website to support people with disabilities; the web is still the totally unregulated wild west it was 20 years ago. Just because it would be nice to have a web that supports people with disabilities doesn't mean you can have the Supreme Court will the requisite regulation into existence, nor does the existence of some informal accessibility standards mean that they should be enforceable by law. It is the job of Congress to update the ADA into the 21st century, and until they do that, the court should not force businesses to comply with the yet-to-be-written regulations.


The ADA says that businesses have to be accessible. It isn't written with regards to any technology etc. So the Supreme Court can interpret the law as meaning that it covers the internet. Just like if I invent a novel poison and use it to kill someone it doesn't stop being murder because no one knew about that poison when the law against murder was being written.

There have been web accessibility guidelines since 1995 and WCAG 2.0 aka ISO/IEC 40500:2012 has been around since 2012. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act incorporates those guidelines so if you are following those rules you should be safe.




This is crazy, you can already order a pizza by phone. Where does it end really.


But can you get the online exclusive deals over the phone?


I can imagine the Dominos screenreader experience would be quite trying for a low vision person because it would constantly, seemingly randomly ask "DO YOU WANT TO ADD MORE CHEESE?", or "WOULD YOU LIKE A CHEESY BREAD?"


I mean, it's super annoying for sighted people already, so it would just be on par with that experience.


I think it would actually be easier. They frequently present big modal popups about adding items, with tiny font in the bottom right saying 'no thanks'


Good point. Maybe I should try enabling VoiceOver next time I place an order.


It would probably be the responsibility of the site to present all content in a semantically understandable context (which html isn't too shabby at)


This should be a free speech issue. Domino's already lets you order by phone, and really it's possible to live a full life without their pizza. I haven't ordered from them in decades. There's no reason to compel them to make their platform accessible.


There is no free speech issue. These rules don't dictate meaningful content of their speech but just that the meaningful content is accessible by people with disabilities.


But that is a ridiculous standard to apply to nonessential broadcasted information.




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