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With a name like Target, you would almost think they would have seen it coming, wouldn’t you?

The US National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has brought legal action against Target corporation (a major US-based discount retailer which operates more than 1,300 stores in 47 states) because their web site is not accessible. The NFB has raised the issue with Target Corporation before:

The website is no more accessible today than it was in May of last year, when we first complained to Target.

That’s about 10 months ago. Sorry Target, but that’s just not good enough.

Ten months is more than enough time to fix the issues, or at least get started doing so. (Word to the wise – if you are making accessibility changes to your site based on feedback – make sure you document your process so that you can at least show that you’re doing something to address the issues, and if you are doing it incrementally make some sort of public announcment with each improvement you make, ok? You know – that would make good business sense.)

There’s quite a few areas that are described as problematic in the official NFB v Target case documents but the main points are:

  • Lack of alt text
  • images maps that neither have alt text or a functional equivalent on the page
  • requirement for a mouse to perform various functions on the site

Honestly – I’m shocked at the first two. This is Accessibility 101. Should be in HTML 101 and Web Design 101 as well. But the third? A requirement for a mouse? I had to see this for myself.

It seems that uses image based submit buttons for certain forms (<input type="image" .../>). See the Target Pharmacy Sign In page. That’s right there’s no alt text on the image based submit buttons. Oh, but it gets worse.

When using these type of submit buttons, x and y co-ordinates that represent the exact location in pixels where the image was clicked are submitted along with the rest of the form as part of its array of name-value pairs. And if you use the keyboard to submit the link what happens? No x or y co-ordinates. And if your server side logic requires those x and y co-ordinates? Yes, that’s right. You have effectively locked out keyboard users.

This will be an interesting case for a number of reasons:

  1. is powered by, so who is responsible? are both responsible? a 50-50 split? 75-25? does the engine that is powering the site even allow Target developers make it accessible? Depending on the functionality of the Amazon engine, can it be considered an Authoring Tool and thus subject to the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines? Did Amazon promise accessibility but not deliver? Did accessibility even make it on to the radar when building the site?
  2. other cases have failed for a variety of reasons; the Southwest Airlines case had less teeth because they admitted fully that a screen reader user could still buy tickets online, but it was tougher to do so. Not the case with A non-mouse user can not buy online. Nor can they create or sign in to the Target online pharmacy. A screen reader user can not find out what grocery coupons found exclusively on the web they can print to take into the store.

Will the NFB be successful? Can a case like this have an influence on web accessibility in the private sector world-wide? One can only hope. We need this to be big, and we need it to hurt badly so that corporations world-wide take more notice.

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