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Federal Judge Sustains Discrimination Claims Against Target.com website
Legal Precedent Set for Web Accessibility
le_gber




msg:3075840
 6:46 am on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

[biz.yahoo.com...]

A federal district court judge ruled yesterday that a retailer may be sued if its website is inaccessible to the blind. [...] The suit charges that Target's website [...] is inaccessible to the blind, and therefore violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)[...]. Target asked the court to dismiss the action by arguing that no law requires Target to make its website accessible. The Court denied Target's motion to dismiss and held that the federal and state civil rights laws do apply to a website such as target.com.

 

texasville




msg:3076211
 3:27 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am not heartless to the blind but I think the wrong entity is being sued.
It seems to me that the "reader" is insufficient and needs to be redesigned to configure to a normal web page. I don't feel it is justified that the nature of the web should be changed but the nature of the web "reader" with perhaps some help from the site designers.
After all, closed captioning was enabled by the manufacturers of TV's in conjunction with the broadcasters. It wasn't all put on the source.
I think the "readers" are too limited.

piatkow




msg:3076215
 3:33 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Accessibility issues on the web have been well publicised for years.
Legislation in both the USA and the UK has been delayed to give bricks and mortar business time to adapt.

Anybody who is still turning out business websites in 2006 that do not meet accessibility criteria has no excuse if they land up in court. The warnings were there and well known.

gpilling




msg:3076217
 3:34 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Social justice is the government saying I can't sell cocaine. Social justice is not telling me I have to make sure everyone has the same accessibility to my store.

Actually, you would have to give handicapped people access to your bricks and mortar store if you tried to open one. Handicapped washrooms, wheelchair ramps etc. I am personally surprised that Target would have rather gone to trial, instead of putting alt-text on the images. Wouldn't a little text be a lot cheaper than a team of lawyers?

encyclo




msg:3076222
 3:35 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

It seems to me that the "reader" is insufficient and needs to be redesigned to configure to a normal web page

So how exactly can the screenreader interpret an image file when there is no alternative text? Even if by some extremely resource-intensive image analysis the program could identify the widget, how could it know the precise model number, size, color...?

Adding alternative text is easy - blind users will benefit, sighted readers with images turned off will benefit, if the image link is broken the text will be displayed instead (meaning your page will still convey the information even when the image doesn't load). This most certainly isn't the screenreaders fault.

I would love to get my hands on a free 30 day trial version of the screen reading software

No problem - try the demo version of JAWS:

[freedomscientific.com...]

Mobro4000




msg:3076316
 4:12 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

what if my website sells posters? would i be exempt?

swa66, capcha for the blind uses sound. although i've never seen in it action.

le_gber




msg:3076319
 4:15 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

first off a little note for the lawyers. Point 30 from Webwork post (cheers WW)

Alt-text does not change the visual presentation except that it appears as a text pop-up when the mouse moves over the picture

That's because Internet Explorer doesn't deal with alt text the way it's supposed to :-P

Then for those of you that want to try and navigate the site with a screen reader:
-http://www.freedomscientific.com/fs_downloads/jaws.asp ([edit]damn encyclo beat me to it - so I delinked it)

This is JAWS (seem to be the most popular screen reader out there) free to try - not 30 days but 30 (or 40 I am not sure- downloaded it only yesterday) minutes , which resets on each reboot.

I'd also like to point out that (from the article on Yahoo):[Emphasis added for clarity]
"We tried to convince Target that it should do the right thing and make its website accessible through negotiations," said Dr. Maurer. [...]

As gpilling mentioned, it was a bad move (and more costly) from Target's part. By complying, saying OK we didn't do the minimum to get our site accessible, but we are working on it - they would have probably had a great publicity boost and have their name in the press for a good reason. Now they have to pay lawyers (which incidently cost more than web developers to hire) to defend bad decisions(not making the site accessible in the first place and filling a motion against the lawsuit instead of working on the site) which could be damaging their company's image.

[personal opinion]
Please Mr Judge, sir, make it stick :)
[/personal opinion]

[edited by: le_gber at 4:20 pm (utc) on Sep. 8, 2006]

Kufu




msg:3076328
 4:19 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Where does this leave Flash-based sites? Do they now have to have an HTML equivalent?

What about an American with a disability (blind) who doesn't speak English? Will every site need to identify all the Americans that lack strong enough English skills and also have a duplicate site which is translated into their language?

Like some have commented, it is relatively easy to make a site accessible (if it is dynamic or small), but there are many other 'problems' that can come from a ruling in favor of the plaintiff.

In Target's case they should just do it for the negative-publicity, and the fact that they'll just have more customers.

buckworks




msg:3076332
 4:21 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

What if my website sells posters?

You'd simply include ALT text that gave information like, "Poster: 1933 vintage black Cadillac", "Poster: red roses in vase", or whatever was relevant.

It only takes a few words to provide a useful idea what the image is about.

ridgway




msg:3076335
 4:23 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

looks like i'll need a lawyer. just tried to use my site without a mouse, and relying on alt text. no chance.

i'd be more than happy to move heaven and earth to help someone with accessibility issues to my site, all they would have to do is get on the phone. or send an email.

but how in the world can you get enough info into the alt text to describe a picture? do i get sued again if the alt text for a pair of grey dress pants fails to mention it has pleats?

someday, atlas will shrug.

voices




msg:3076344
 4:27 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I would think alt text on every image would be very annoying. Do you have to put widget photograph or is widget enough for a picture of a a widget, then of course right next to the photo is a description of the widget. Then you may have a header graphic, a company logo maybe some little graphic bars and other decorative incidentals that nobody wants to read.

I work on business to business industrial product sites. Do you think they hire blind people to do their purchasing? Does the law only pertain to sites the general public uses?

Bewenched




msg:3076357
 4:33 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ok .. this is almost as scary as braille at the drive through windows of fast food restaurants.

amznVibe




msg:3076358
 4:34 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Another reason not to make your website 100% flash (or even 10% flash!)

buckworks




msg:3076363
 4:36 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

other decorative incidentals that nobody wants to read

That's exactly what ALT="" is for.

As for the pleats on the grey pants, there's no need for the ALT text to duplicate the entire product description. In fact, if your product copy was descriptive enough, you could use an empty ALT attribute so the image wouldn't even make its presence known to the blind person.

Tigrou




msg:3076367
 4:37 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you think hosting offshore puts you out of legal risk, you are wrong. It is where your business is located (and even then the government will still go after you if they want).

Do you honestly think that a typical law suit or gov't action is going to bother hitting someone up hosting in say, Malaysia? In extreme cases sure, in other cases no. It's an extra form of insurance.

Tom_Dalton




msg:3076382
 4:43 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

You know, I'm not blind but I've experienced similar frustrations surfing sites with my internet-enabled cell phone. Poor navigation, use of images instead of text, flash or other tech that requires a mouse -- these are serious handicaps for mobile users as well.

Viewed in that light, I think this is issue will be much easier to swallow for webmasters. The blind may not be the hot new market, but mobile search and surfing increasingly is. The problems and the solutions are much the same.

digitalghost




msg:3076390
 4:49 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> Ok .. this is almost as scary as braille at the drive through windows of fast food restaurants

It's only scary because it is a bad joke and it is repeated in nearly every discussion about accessibility. What's scary is that some people really think that the Braille is there for blind drivers...

Why is there Braille at drive-up ATMS and restaurants?

For sight impaired people using taxis, (they ride in the back seat) or those that are dependent on relatives or friends to drive them. (those with seeing-eye dogs typically ride in the back seat as well).

So can we put the lame joke to bed now?

ashear




msg:3076401
 4:54 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Some of these comments are heartless.

I actually have acquaintances with several young blind kids who get most of their enjoyment in life browsing the web. To say this judge made as mistake is to actively promote discrimination.

This is cold hearted!

Did you know there are even engineers a Google who are blind and work on the very engines you are trying to get in? I hope they take that into account on your next re-inclusion request.

ken_b




msg:3076408
 4:57 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

The warnings were there and well known.

The warnings might have been there, but as for being "well known" I doubt that very much. They might have been know of by a select group of professional activists and designers, but neither of those two groups account for the bulk of sites on the web today.

As others have mentioned the reader software probably needs to be addressed as well as the eites themselves.

And considering how many sites are built with software like Dreamweaver, Front Page, etc, maybe those need to be included as well so that they include inaccessabilty alerts as a site is being built.

Demaestro




msg:3076415
 5:00 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I completely agree with this ruling, if you have a commercial website doing busines on the internet you are as responsible as any business with having all not just the ones that can see and hear but all whom may come to your business full access to it.

I disagree with this statement. The person in question is not limited to purchaseing target products. They can visit a store or phone in orders. There are other avenues for them to make the products Target carries available to them. Not be able to use the website has nothing to do with being able to access the goods or services they have, unless that is the only place they are available, in this case though they are available other places then on a website.

I also argue the point about them not having access to the site. They do have access, if they go to the URL they will arrive at a webpage. At that point they have accessed the site. Just because the site doesn't function well with screen scrapers that read out content doesn't mean that there is no access available to them. It just means their site doesn't functional well with screen readers.

On a simliar note, I have been to many websites that only work in IE, would I be able to argue that one of these sites prevents me from accessing it because it won't work in Firefox? Same kind of thing, firefox is a program for me to acess websites, much like a screen reader is a program for someone to access a website. They are argueing since their website reader doesn't work for that website that they have some course of legal action.

Does this mean we as Webmasters must, by law, accomodate all types of software that are meant for translating CSS, Javascript and HTML?

[edited by: Demaestro at 5:03 pm (utc) on Sep. 8, 2006]

le_gber




msg:3076433
 5:08 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

ridgway
but how in the world can you get enough info into the alt text to describe a picture

have a look at longdesc as an attribute for the img tag - modern screen readers support it.
Otherwise (for other browser - screen readers or not) some people recommend using a 'd' link before or after the image - link that leads to a wordier description.

re the alt="" and sidebars or other sub-graphical elements - use CSS and image backgrounds and you don't even need the alt="" :)

[edited by: le_gber at 5:10 pm (utc) on Sep. 8, 2006]

ashear




msg:3076437
 5:09 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I disagree with this statement. The person in question is not limited to purchaseing target products. They can visit a store or phone in orders. There are other avenues for them to make the products Target carries available to them. Not be able to use the website has nothing to do with being able to access the goods or services online, unless that is the only place they are available.

This statement could be taken another way.

A visually impaired person walks into the retail store, struggles like crazy to find what they where looking for because itís much harder to do in person. Walks up to the register and they say, no this register is not for the visually impaired go to the other one.

Your logic can be associated with fundamental discrimination.

digitalghost




msg:3076448
 5:13 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>Not be able to use the website has nothing to do with being able to access the goods or services they have, unless that is the only place they are available, in this case though they are available other places then on a website.

That argument comes up quite a bit. Here's the deal, do you think it is easier for a blind person to get to a store and shop than it is for them sit in their home and shop from the web?

>>use the phone

What? To shop with? Is a 'phone catalog' available?

>>shop elsewhere

That argument didn't work for bricks and mortar stores and certainly shouldn't be allowed to work for the web.

I really don't get the reason for the hostility. Open a restaurant and see if you must comply with accessibility issues. Parking, restrooms, access ramps- compliance is a must. Why should a website be different?

le_gber




msg:3076450
 5:14 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

dmaestro I'd have to strongly disagree with you on this comment:

Same kind of thing, firefox is a program for me to acess websites, much like a screen reader is a program for someone to access a website.

You chose to use Firefox, people with reading disabilities do not choose to browse the web with screen reader, it's the only way they can. I assume that if you were forced to, you could browse the web with IE? This is unfortunatly not the case for people with disability.

voices




msg:3076458
 5:18 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

There should be no need to describe the picture as items being sold already have a description. Seems like it is just repetitious and would be annoying to anyone with a screen reader. Maybe putting photo would be enough. Then they know it is something they have no use for. Unless of course they want to download the photo to show to a sighted friend and ask them if it looks okay.

Maybe in the future we will be required to obtain a building permit before creating web sites. Let inspectors may sure they comply with all the rules.

All the lawsuit happiness needs to stop.

StupidScript




msg:3076501
 5:36 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Making a site as accessible as possible is both good business and, currently, U.S. law. Anyone who hasn't been coding to the standards needs to get off their duff and take the simple steps required to make it so. If you're still doing sub-standards coding, you're not paying attention.

If you have rolled out a business/ecommerce site that does not meet the standards, you should go to your client and explain how it's "too hard" or "too expensive" to bring it up to date, and that they really won't miss the clients your shoddy workmanship is causing them to lose.

I'm sure they'll understand.

The HAL Screen Reader from Dolphin [dolphincomputeraccess.com] is about as good as they come.

paperclick




msg:3076567
 6:14 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Whenever there's a new shift in doing things 'the old way' most people get upset, while others see HUGE opportunities because of the new rules.

Think about it..

timster




msg:3076583
 6:20 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Regarding worries about alt text, this is not about writing long descriptions of pictures. Take a look at Target's website to see what can really cause problems: no alt text on an images with English words, e.g., describing when free shipping is available.

If anyone is seriously thinking about offshoring to avoid these regulations, carefully consider your location, because one might say the ADA is going global [un.org].

This stuff is not rocket science. In my neck of the woods, teachers roped into being school webmasters create accessible sites for their Elementary Schools. My kid's school's webmaster have contacted me for help occasionally, but never had a problem with accessibility issues.

BTW, anyone looking for a cheap-as-free way to test their sites can download the Lynx browser. Up until a few years ago (when some snazzy products already mentioned came out) Lynx was popular way for the vision impaired to access websites.

[lynx.browser.org ]

Demaestro




msg:3076631
 6:47 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

You chose to use Firefox, people with reading disabilities do not choose to browse the web with screen reader, it's the only way they can. I assume that if you were forced to, you could browse the web with IE? This is unfortunatly not the case for people with disability.

Well I guess this is partially true. However I choose a Mac and Microsoft and Apple choose not to have IE support for Macs. So while I did choose Firefox I choose it over Safari, not IE. IE is not a choice that I have and so websites that only work in IE are not accessable to me. Not by my chioce though.

Anyway my point being that the person is not denied access based on the fact that he can't see, just the software he uses doesn't function well on that website.

There is no test in the background being run that reads like:

If user == 'blind':
..deny access
else:
..access granted

So I am still left wondering if this is about blind people having access to websites or is it about forcing us to make websites work with all browsers? If they can force me to make my site work with a screen reader browser, then why not force me to make my site work for all web browsing software?

Again like I mentioned the person in question has access to Target's products and services. Just not VIA Target's website, but that has nothing to do with Target being negligent, just they don't support screen reader browsers, just like some websites don't support my browser.

pageoneresults




msg:3076637
 6:52 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

So I am still left wondering if this is about blind people having access to websites or is it about forcing us to make websites work with all browsers? If they can force me to make my site work with a screen reader browser, then why not force me to make my site work for all web browsing software?

I was deeply and emotionally involved in that first topic when the lawsuit was first announced. After performing hours of research and tearing apart their checkout process page by page, it was very easy to see that the complaints were valid.

Put it this way, a user with images turned off wouldn't have been able to buy a product from the Target website.

encyclo




msg:3076645
 7:02 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'll give another pretty good reason to consider accessibility for the visually-impaired.

Googlebot is blind.

Think about how a web spider "sees" a website - it is doing the exact same thing as a text-mode browser (like Lynx, see above). Googlebot can't read or analyse images either, and the alt text gives important information about the content of the image to Google too. Are you more interested in catering for the blind now? :)

If you are building your site in a purely visual way (a graphical representation in a window), then you need to start considering how the site works in a non-visual way. It will not only help the blind, the physically-handicapped, those with alternative devices (ie. surfing via mobile phone), but it will help your rankings too.

The "they should shop elsewhere" argument has been lost many years ago for "brick-and-mortar" business. What's more, website accessibility is often easier to achieve that physical accessibility.

Easy_Coder




msg:3076646
 7:03 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

it was very easy to see that the complaints were valid

ok but how do you suggest letting a purchase take place without a mouse? Unless I missed it this hasn't been answered yet.

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