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Will Target get schooled?

By Aaron Gustafson | October 5th, 2007 | Filed in Accessibility, Legal

Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California certified the NFB lawsuit against Target as a class action on behalf of blind Internet users throughout the U.S. and ruled that websites like are required, under California state law, to be accessible.

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In February of 2006, the National Federation of the Blind took legal action against Target for having an inaccessible website. A month later the case after it went to federal court (at Target’s request), and in September, the NFB began pushing for class action certification after Target failed to get the case thrown out.

For nearly a year, it’s been very quiet, but Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, has just granted class-action status to the lawsuit, meaning every blind person in the U.S. who has tried to access can become a plaintiff. The judge also created a separate class in the suit for blind residents of California, as the site’s inaccessibility may break not only federal law, but state law as well.

As Derek and Matt have noted, this could be a landmark case for web accessibility in the U.S. Of particular note (in my mind, at least) is that Target has modified its website (albeit not a whole lot) since the suit was originally filed, hoping to get the suit dropped or dismissed, but Judge Patel did not acquiesce.

You can read more about the order from the Associated Press, PC World, and Ars Technica.

This post has been translated into Polish.

Your Replies

#1 On October 5th, 2007 7:55 am Now, More Than Ever. at doug nelson: DISENGAGE! replied:

[...] The Web Standards Project has an update on the National Federation For The Blind’s class-action smackdown against the woefully inaccessible While no one should have to, at this point, evangelize web accessibility to their bosses and web developers, this event marks the single largest (potential) profit-loss as a result of non-standards-compliant web design. So, if you ARE having problems getting your designers/developers/employers to take accessibility seriously, point’em to these articles. [...]

#2 On October 7th, 2007 4:02 pm NFB is not so blind friendly itself « The Universe Divided replied:

[...] 7, 2007 NFB is not so blind friendly itself Posted by michiel under CSS   The web standards project writes:  “Yesterday, the U.S.District Court for the Northern District of California certified the NFB lawsuit against Target as a class action on behalf of blind Internet users throughout the U.S. and ruled that websites like are required, under California state law, to be accessible. [...]

#3 On October 7th, 2007 9:56 pm Is the Target Lawsuit Frivolous? - replied:

[...] Web Standards Group: Will Target Get Schooled? [...]

#4 On October 8th, 2007 12:05 am lillbra » Blog Archive » Domstolsbeslut för bättre tillgänglighet på webben replied:

[...] Förhoppningsvis är detta två beslut som kommer bidra till högre tillgänglighet på webben och många e-handelsföretag i USA förväntas nu göra sina sajter bättre. Du kan läsa mer om domstolsbesluten hos The Web Standards Project. [...]

#5 On October 9th, 2007 9:40 am Richard Morton replied:

It is about time. Hopefully in twenty years time we will be able to look back and wonder what all the web accessibility fuss was about, or maybe that is still a bit optimistic.

#6 On October 13th, 2007 12:30 pm Tribulus replied:

Many web developers and the companies they serve seem to think there’s something sacrosanct about the websites they build. There isn’t. If you choose to discriminate on the basis of disability then you should be held to account.

#7 On October 15th, 2007 8:34 pm ryo replied:

I did not know a site inaccessibility will land the owner in a legal case in california. Webmaster should take note of the issue involve and try to accomodate the blind internet user to avoid getting into legal trouble in california.

#8 On October 17th, 2007 1:41 pm Jen Fe replied:

Great article and crazy story :-) I think too, that it is a landmark case for web accessibility. like Derek and Matt said…

#9 On October 19th, 2007 3:40 pm Scott replied:

Anyone want to join me in a class action suit against all automakers for not making cars accessible for blind people?

#10 On October 19th, 2007 4:10 pm Frank Thoml replied:

Respecting people is one thing; funding accessibility for everyone with any kind of disability is another.

Respecting everyone is crucial, and making efforts to make sites (and kiosks, billboards, phone systems, drive-throughs, and so on) accessible to people with disabilities helps to prove they are worth every bit as much to us as individuals as those without disabilities. However, trying to make sites and other things accessible to everyone would be so expensive that no one could afford to offer anything to anyone.

If you provide audio for your site, what is to prevent the people who are both blind and deaf from initiating a class-action suit? If you present information at a 10th-grade level, what is to prevent someone from suing you on behalf of the mentally challenged? A million other unfair scenarios are quite possible in light of this lawsuit.

Some will argue this is only about accessibility for the blind, but when we get to where the blind can use any site and any utility they want, will anyone think it fair that people who are blind and deaf, mute, quadriplegic, mentally challenged, or with any other combination of disabilities shouldn’t be able to use those same services?

#11 On October 20th, 2007 11:22 am c. s. replied:

The law requires you to make a reasonable effort to make the site accessible. No one is expecting you to write assistive devices to make using the site easier for users with disabilities. You are expected to do the little things like proper alt attributes (*especially* on images used as links), not using microscopic font sizes, transcripts of audio files, subtitles for videos, not breaking the user’s browser, etc. Doing little things like these barely increase the cost of constructing the website. In some cases, inaccessible elements like Flash or fancy JavaScript that deviates from user’s expectations for site behavior, cost a lot more than filling in proper alt attributes.

The law applies to business and government websites, because they are considered an extension of their physical outlets. No one is going to sue YouTube because the blind can’t watch videos.

#12 On October 23rd, 2007 12:56 pm Mike Ebert replied:

The way I see it, it’s not that hard to make a website accessible to the blind or deaf, or even the blind AND deaf. It’s not an unreasonable request, either. Web sites are, for the most part, still based on text. Most images, audio, and even video can be explained or complimented by a text equivalent. Text can be presented by a screen reader or a braille machine (ever seen Sneakers?). So why not provide an accessible site?

Things like making driving or flying an airplane or playing football games accessible to the deaf, dumb, blind quadrapolegic cripple won’t happen because they’re not reasonable, realistic, or easy.

This case is about balancing costs – the cost of inaccessibility to the blind vs. the cost of making an accessible site to Target. I think Target is going to lose because the cost to the blind is much greater than the cost to Target . It you had a case about the cost of not playing football to a quadrapolegic vs. the cost to a football league to accomodate him, it would end up unfair against the football league and the quadrapolegic would lose.

That’s why Target will probably lose, and that’s why the precedent from this case won’t set up a bunch of ridiculous new accessibility cases.

#13 On October 24th, 2007 1:35 pm Ryan Ternier replied:

The USA is full of sue happy morons.

Sure, a site is not accesible. So, instead of SUEING them the judge should just order them to fix it, by a certain date. it’s not like the blind got hurt because of this. I know people who are blind, and deaf. However, they don’t complain when something goes their way because they have a SPINE!

The judge should’ve just slapped the company with a “You’re an Idiot” sticker, and forced them to fix their web pages by a certain date.

#14 On November 2nd, 2007 4:10 pm London replied:

When they can and they won’t do it , then is time for action

#15 On December 18th, 2007 4:32 pm Neal replied:

The sad thing is it wasn’t that hard of a fix for Target to do. Obviously their product pages read from a database, how hard is it to read the same field for the product title into the alt attribute? It’s not like they had to create a seperate column in the db just for all the products alt attributes.

I’m not sure on the specifics for their checkout process but I know it involved javascript and mouse movements. That also is probably an easy fix.

In a way Target has ruined it for the rest of us, which will end up putting a magnifying glass on the rest of the internet.

Probably the only thing funnier than Target’s laziness is the fact that blind people bother using the internet (and computers) in the first place. Being a able-visioned person I would probably give up using a computer if I were to go blind and take up something that uses another sense (music anyone?)

Here’s the question of the day…do blind people have jobs? If not, I guess I can see why they’re looking for ways to pass their time from 9-5.

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