Court rules website must be accessible to the blind

15 Jan 2019

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that the protections afforded by the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), applies to websites and mobile apps, in a new ruling. According to the court, limiting access online essentially prevents a customer's access to services at the company’s physical locations. The decision went in favour of a visually impaired California resident Guillermo Robles who filed a lawsuit against Domino’s in 2016, after his unsuccessful attempt to order pizza online. Robles had sought a declaration that Domino’s was in violation of the ADA since their website or app was not designed to be compatible with the screen-reading software which he uses.

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Jurisdiction is the authority of the court and state organs to decide on legal cases. The relationship between jurisdiction and the Internet has been ambiguous, since jurisdiction rests predominantly on the geographical division of the globe into national territories. Each state has the sovereign right to exercise jurisdiction over its territory.

Internet access is growing rapidly, yet large groups of people remain unconnected to the Internet. As of 2015, about 43% of people had access to the Internet (in developing countries only 34%). Access to ICTs is part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, which commits to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (Goal 9.c).

According to UN estimates, there are 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. The factors that contribute to increasing this number include war and destruction by natural as well as human causes; poverty and unhealthy living conditions; and the absence of knowledge about disability, its causes, prevention, and treatment. The Internet provides new possibilities for social inclusion and for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities.


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