Thursday, October 4, 2007

Target's still-unaccessible website results in class-action lawsuit a year later

Target, Target, Target... goodness knows I love you and give you much of my money, but this just doesn't look good.

Last October, Target got into trouble when Chris Danielsen (who is blind) tried to make a purchase on their site could not complete his transaction because their site was so inaccessible. The NFB sued Target on his behalf under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Target tried to refute it saying the Act did not apply to the internet.

"The blind have more access to information than they ever had in history _ but that's only true to the extent that Web accessibility is maintained," Danielsen said. "The technology is out there, and we don't need barriers to be put in our way. Give us a way in." - "Blind Web surfers sue Target" (Oct. 2006 MSN article).
So here we go again: This October, another similar lawsuit brought by a blind UC Berkeley student in February 2006 has now become a nation- wide class-action suit.
Public locations in the real world have long been required to abide by the ADA, but the law was written in the days before the Web, and it remains unclear how it should be applied to web sites. One of the lawyers from Disability Rights Advocates, which is handling the case, sees inaccessibility as a simple issue of discrimination, online or off. -Lawsuit over web site accessibility for the blind becomes class action (Ars Technica)
This case caught my attention because of my current work as an intern at Knowbility (an Austin-based non-profit that seeks to make the internet accessible for those with disabilities) because through my involvement with them I've become aware of these technological issues and how frustrating it can be for users with disabilities. I couldn't imagine having to navigate my computer with a screen reader, much less the internet. Eventually, no matter how much it hurts, Target is going to have to make steps towards an accessible website, especially when other companies have pro-actively done so: the MSN article from last October used Best Buy as an example of a company website that has made changes towards accessibility such as adding alt-tags to graphics. More updates to come as the case plays out in court.

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