February 07, 2006

CA Blind Sue Target Stores Over Inaccessible Website

Blind people in California today sued Target, the national discount department store, in a class action suit, saying its website is inaccessible to blind people. The retail giant's online store, which according to its home page is "powered by Amazon.com," "contains significant access barriers that prevent blind customers from browsing and purchasing products online, as well as from finding important corporate information such as employment opportunities, investor news, and company policies," says the National Federation of the Blind, which, along with NFB's California chapter, is a plaintiff in the suit.

"Blind customers should have the same access to Target's online services that Target offers its sighted customers," says NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer. Target.com, say plaintiffs, "fails to meet the minimum standard of web accessibility. It lacks compliant alt-text, an invisible code embedded beneath graphic images that allows screen readers to detect and vocalize a description of the image to a blind computer user. It also contains inaccessible image maps, preventing blind users from jumping to different destinations within the website. And because the website requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind Target customers are unable to make purchases on Target.com independently."

"We tried to convince Target that it should make its website accessible through negotiations," Maurer said. "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. The website is no more accessible today than it was in May of last year, when we first complained to Target."

Although federal cases brought against inaccessible websites under the Americans with Disabilities Act have not fared well in the courts, today's suit is filed under California law. Mazen M. Basrawi with Disability Rights Advocates, one of the groups serving as attorneys to the plaintiffs, says Target's inaccessible site violates state antidiscrimination law. "Target is a retail outlet, a public place, with a public website. The retail outlet is a store, and the website is a service provided by and integrated with the brick-and-mortar stores," says Basrawi. "Target.com is a 'public place' within the meaning of California Civil Code because it is open to the public, and because the laws apply to all services related to Target stores, including the website."

"I want to be able to shop online at Target.com just like anyone else," says UC Berkeley student BJ Sexton, one of the plaintiffs. "Millions of blind people like me can use the internet just as easily as do the sighted, if the website is accessible."

The suit asks the court to declare that Target is operating its website in a manner that discriminates against the blind and persons with visual disabilities in violation of California law, and seeks damages for the plaintiffs.

Read press release from Disability Rights Advocates website.

Read complaint -- PDF file (via Inclusion Daily).

Posted on February 07, 2006