4 min.

How Pizza Is Shaping Web Accessibility Laws

  • accessibility
  • opinion
  • law

Everyone loves pizza, but do we all have equal access to pizza? As the pizza-ordering process has moved from phone calls to websites and apps, the ordering systems we use to get our cheesy goodness have variably left some pizza-lovers behind.

Although web accessibility guidelines have been around for years, still many pizzerias, among other businesses, don’t comply with them. And who can blame them? Meeting accessibility guidelines can be confusing and it’s sometimes difficult to rationalize investing in accessibility when the benefits of doing so are sometimes unclear. But by far the biggest factor is that corporations have not been legally required to make their technology accessible. However, that is changing.

A recent court decision in California determined that the Domino’s Pizza website and app are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and must comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Although this decision affects Domino’s specifically, it has much broader implications for the web and e-commerce as a whole. This sets historic legal precedence as the first instance of a court ordering a corporation to adhere to web accessibility guidelines of any kind.

While this is just one court ruling, in one state, and it has the possibility of being overruled; it is the first sign that the law is catching up with technology, making sure that consumers are not neglected in the world of e-commerce. This is a huge step towards making the web accessible for all of us.

Why You Should Care About Web Accessibility

This decision will undoubtedly help people living with a disability order pizza, but in many ways, it will also benefit people with temporary or situational disabilities, which we’ve all experienced several times throughout our lives.

A temporary disability could include a broken finger or sprained wrist, which would make it hard to use a mouse or trackpad when ordering your pizza. Perhaps you were even thinking you’d order a pizza because your injury is preventing you from preparing a meal.

Or an example of a situational disability is when you’re stumbling home at 3 A.M. after a night out, your phone is at 2% battery so you’ve got no time to spare. The pizza delivery website seems much harder to navigate in your inebriated and rushed state. #rip 😵 No pizza for you. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Accessibility, at its core, is about creating a user experience that works for everyone Regardless of who we are, there are likely many moments in which an accessible website or app could have saved us time, frustration, confusion… the list goes on. Accessibility, at its core, is about creating a user experience that works for everyone, so that we can all enjoy our pizza, whether we’re drunk with a dying phone battery, recovering from an injury, or living with a permanent disability. This is good for us as consumers but also for merchants. A more accessible ordering process means that Domino’s will sell more pizzas, and at a faster rate. Complying with accessibility guidelines is often just good business. So why do we need accessibility standards to be enforced by law? Won’t consumer choice be a driving factor in pushing businesses to make their websites and apps accessible?

The Case for Stricter Regulations

Even though I believe Domino’s will ultimately benefit from making their website and app more accessible, they still had not made their website or app accessible. In a lot of cases, it’s still hard to rationalize the business value accessibility can bring. Many companies still largely neglect to comply with basic guidelines for web accessibility. This is because the web is a relatively new medium for commerce compared to physical stores.

Many businesses are simply unaware that accessibility is something they should be concerned with, and even less aware that guidelines for web accessibility exist. Similar to what we saw with GDPR regulations, accessibility regulations would force businesses to make accessibility a priority for the benefit of the consumer.

Even those of us without a disability regularly benefit from accessible features.

When we visit a physical store, often we see accessibility standards implemented to perfection. There are parking spots labeled for people with disabilities, ramps, automatic doors, and many more additional measures put in place to aid people with disabilities. Even those of us without a disability regularly benefit from accessible features. This is all thanks to laws that ensure businesses and public buildings have met a certain level of accessibility. Online properties should be held to similar standards.

As consumers, we are currently paying the price through poor user experiences.

Creating an Accessible Web Beyond Pizza

In the case of Domino’s, accessibility seems like a trivial issue. So what? It’s a little bit harder to order pizza. Should this be a legal issue? If people really can’t use the website, they can just call, right?

I think it’s important to note that there are already many products and services that don’t have alternatives to a website or app, and many of which are much more critical than ordering pizza:

  • Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft
  • Food delivery services like HelloFresh and Blue Apron
  • Many apartment applications (my building just recently went entirely digital)
  • Online retailers like Amazon, Wayfair, and AliExpress

As businesses become increasingly online-only, ensuring that these online stores and services are accessible is becoming increasingly important. While this court ruling with Domino’s is a step in the right direction, I hope to see much more done to ensure all consumers are treated fairly and have equal access to products and services on the web.

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(c) 2020, David Leger