Blind Advocates Sue Retail Giant Target Over Website Usability
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 8, 2006
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA--A blind UC Berkeley student and the National Federation of the Blind of California are suing Target Corporation, accusing the retail giant of failing to make its website accessible to blind shoppers.
The class action suit, filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court by the non-profit law firm Disability Rights Advocates, is designed to send a message to companies that have an Internet presence that "the blind will not be left behind on the information superhighway", according to a DRA press statement.
"The Internet is a cornerstone of the modern economy. One of the country's largest retailers cannot exclude an entire segment of the population from its goods and services," the statement read.
The plaintiffs, who include University of California Berkeley student Bruce Sexton Jr., claim that Target.com is virtually inaccessible to blind people because it fails to meet minimum standards for web accessibility. Specifically, the website lacks "alt text" tags, which are words that can be written into webpage code below graphic images so that computerized screen readers can describe those images out loud to blind web surfers. The website also lacks image maps, which allow blind users to move to different places on the site, and requires users to use a mouse to complete any transaction, which means that they must have a sighted person help them.
"I want to be able to shop online at Target.com just like anyone else," said Sexton, who also is president of the California Association of Blind Students. "I believe that millions of blind people like me can use the Internet just as easily as do the sighted, if the website is accessible."
The suit accuses Target of violating the rights of blind Californians under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act, along with the federal 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
The complaint asks the court to force Target to stop violating California law, to declare that Target is operating its website in a manner that discriminates against users who are blind or have visual disabilities, and to pay damages to the plaintiffs.
"We tried to convince Target that it should make its website accessible through negotiations," said NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer. "It's unfortunate that Target was unwilling to commit to equal access for all its online customers."
"That gave us no choice but to seek the protection of the court," he said. "The website is no more accessible today than it was in May of last year, when we first complained to Target."
"Target Corporation Sued for Discrimination Against the Blind" (Disability Rights Advocates)
Text of complaint: "National Federation of the Blind v. Target" (Alameda County Superior Court)