By Albert J. Rizzi, M.Ed.
As you may know, I happen to be blind. The other day, I went to a local pizzeria. Since it didn’t have any menus in braille or any electronic options for me to listen to, I asked the person behind the counter to tell me about the different toppings for the pizza I was about to order. I also asked if there were any specials for the day.
The lady behind the counter seemed bothered by my request, and said, “I am kind of busy. Here is the menu. See if someone else can read it for you.”
She walked away.
“Really?” I said. “I can’t read this and need your assistance. I am ready, willing, and able to buy pizza from you right now.”
You could practically hear her eyes rolling at this request.
As I waited for the light to go off over her head and understand that I needed help, she stepped away to help the next customer, who asked the same questions about toppings and such. She quickly provided them with a myriad of toppings and the specials for the day. The person placed their order within minutes and contentedly waited for their pizza.
This doesn’t sound fair, does it? It sounds discriminatory too, right? How would you feel if someone looked through you as if you were not even there and made you feel inconsequential?
Well, thankfully this never actually happened to me. My pizza place, Papa Nick's in the Village of Bellport, New York , is very accommodating and always ready to address all of my inquiries and requests. Not to mention, they cook the best pizza around!
The scenario that I described didn’t happen to me yet it does happen on a regular basis to others. The international chain, Domino’s Pizza , actually does this to customers wanting to order a pizza. When potential customers who also happen to be blind try to order a Domino’s pizza online or through the mobile app, they need to find someone with sight for assistance because assistive technologies do not work.
A California man who is blind tried to order pizza from Domino’s by using the app that all other customers use. Because both the website and mobile app are not accessible or usable to people who are blind or in some instances, print disabled, he was unable to order a pizza like the average Joe. He sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found in his favor.
Instead of accepting the court’s decision and catering to the needs of ALL pizza lovers, Domino’s opted to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court to settle the question of whether the company’s refusal rises to a level of discrimination that violates the ADA. Domino’s believes that their public facing digital portals are not public accommodations merely because they offer access to the products and services of their brick and mortar storefronts.
To me, this issue is very simple. Wherever Domino’s conducts business, virtually or not, they can’t discriminate against customers based on Ability, just as they cannot discriminate based upon Race, Gender, Orientation, or Religion. If the ADA requires the company to make accommodations for people entering the physical establishment, then Domino’s must also make accommodations, as mandated and regulated under the law, to accommodate those who have a print disability or who happen to be blind.
The ADA does not specifically mention virtual forums, websites, or mobile apps because these things didn’t exist when the law was passed in 1990. This does not mitigate or eliminate the fact that now companies such as Domino’s build their businesses and invite us to patronize their establishments virtually, much as they entice us to enter their brick and mortar establishments.
In 2019, every business has a virtual presence. Indeed, online sales are becoming more dominate in every retail sector. In some cases, online sales outpace those from physical retail locations. Hell, some companies have foregone physical locations for sleek and sexy virtual ones altogether. There is no indication that this trend will end.
Domino’s doors are open, virtually and physically, to customers of all abilities including those of us with a disability. So, they should cater to all people and not be allowed to discriminate based upon Ability. By all rights, Domino’s needs to serve people who have severe visual impairments, mobility issues, cognitive delays, and organic dysfunction such as dyslexia.
Practically speaking, it’s not difficult to fix this problem, especially since it requires merely introducing a few programmatic codes into a digital platform, thus ensuring authentic inclusion and digital equity for people of all abilities. The cost of baking those codes into any website, mobile app, or digital offering is much less than the money wasted in a food fight about inclusion with those of us who have a disability.
According to MarketWatch, Domino’s Pizza is a multibillion-dollar company that realized a net income of $362 million in 2018. Would they have us believe there are absolutely no resources to ensure that the technologies they invested in are usable by all customers? Does Domino’s not care about building equity in their brand and image? Does Domino’s really believe they don’t need to serve people with a disability? When taking into consideration earnings in contrast to the pennies it takes to maximize the investments made in technology, I know it would take a miniscule amount of resources, financial or otherwise, to fix this issue and avoid discriminating against people with a disability.
Companies invest in technologies for a reason, yet Domino’s would have us think that digital equity is for everyone but those of us from the disability community. Could you imagine how the public would react if Domino’s refused to serve people based upon Race, Orientation, Gender, or Religion?
In this case, the negative press alone, absolutely leaves an extremely bad taste in my mouth. Instead of lawyering up, Domino’s, and all other companies, should maximize their investments and make digital platforms equitable and usable to all. Aside from the good public relations by addressing these programmatic glitches, they will open themselves to an untapped market of 1.4 billion people and their 2.3 billion friends and family who need to eat, shop, live, and thrive. Can any business afford to ignore a market of consumers with over $8 trillion in discretionary spending power?
I am left to assume that Domino’s doesn’t see value in serving consumers with a disability and contend that the only way to right this wrong is to hit them where it hurts: the wallet. I challenge you to go onto Domino’s website, mobile app, or even go old school and pick up the phone. Do not order an ExtravaganZZa Pizza or Sweet Mango Habanero Wings. Instead, register a complaint about how offended you are by this discriminatory behavior. Let the company know that you refuse to eat their food in the future, and that you will encourage others to do the same. Mention that you’ll order your next pizza from competitors instead. Better yet, meet me at Papa Nick’s for fantastic pizza and fair treatment of people of all abilities and not just those who are able to see.
To register your complaint, the phone number for Domino’s Pizza headquarters is (734) 930-3030.
In the highly competitive pizza market, loss of market share still strikes fear in the hearts of C-suite executives. If the bad public relations stemming from this myopic practice won’t compel the company to do the right thing, perhaps the threat and loss of the almighty dollar will. #DontDisMyAbility #AccessAbility