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Accessibility and Usability Forum

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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.

 

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.

pageoneresults




msg:3076669
 7:16 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

You should be able to logically tab your way through a web page without ever having to touch the mouse. If you want to "kick it up a notch", you would use access keys.

P.S. Just checked one of the main issues that was a problem on the Target website and can you believe they still haven't corrected it? :(

[edited by: pageoneresults at 7:18 pm (utc) on Sep. 8, 2006]

Demaestro




msg:3076670
 7:18 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

And?

Is this bad business as far as Target goes? ... Yes

Should Target strive for better? ... Yes

Is having you products available online to as many people as possible a good thing? .. again Yes

Does that mean that it is impossible to make an order from Target? ... No

Should Target get sued over disabled access? ... I say No, but my opinion is just that, opinion, a judge obviously disagrees.

The goods and services provided by Target are still accessable to anyone willing, just not VIA the Internet, to me this means they have access, just not through the method they prefer or had hoped for.

[edited by: Demaestro at 7:19 pm (utc) on Sep. 8, 2006]

varya




msg:3076680
 7:26 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Earlier this year I did a complete site redesign for a photographer. Naturally, it features his photography and the gallery navigation is completely image-based.

This is absolutely my favorite comment and the best compliment I've ever gotten on my web design.

"site reads perfectly with my screen reader
tell your webdesigner she did a good job on making the site blind screen
reader friendly"

I started writing accessible code several years ago...it was the primary reason I switched to pure css layouts.

Every single thing I do for accessibility makes the site better for all visitors and better for the search engines.

voices




msg:3076694
 7:49 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

But is it reasonable to believe blind people want to browse a sight full of photographs?

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? :)

I dont object to building accessible pages. I object to thinking I can be sued if I happen to leave out some alt text and I especially object to the thought that many companies with old websites can be sued for what was built in the past. I dont think a company the size of Target and redo their site in a day.

pageoneresults




msg:3076695
 7:56 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

But is it reasonable to believe blind people want to browse a sight full of photographs?

Hmmm, you never know. Let's paint a picture (pun intended) of where a visually challenged person might browse a site full of photographs.

Let's say that I'm partially blind, that adds a new element to the discussion. Let's say that I was once a professional photographer and well known in my industry. I continue to work in the field but can no longer take pictures as my sight is 80% gone.

Let's say that the subject matter I specialized in was wildlife. And now that I'm 80% blind, I still follow the industry and like to visit websites I know can provide me with a "textual" experience of what I would normally experience "visually".

That's just one "small" example. There are many impairments that come into play here with sight being one of them.

In Target's case, they don't have an alt attribute on the most important button on the page, the Add to Cart button. Nor do they have alt attributes on other graphic links that might be of interest to a visually disabled person.

I dont object to building accessible pages. I object to thinking I can be sued if I happen to leave out some alt text and I especially object to the thought that many companies with old websites can be sued for what was built in the past. I dont think a company the size of Target and redo their site in a day.

I think the whole lawsuit thing is out of hand too. Maybe it has become more of a "principle" thing. You have to wonder why Target hasn't addressed some of the issues that were first raised when the lawsuit was filed.

Kufu




msg:3076720
 8:31 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

You have to wonder why Target hasn't addressed some of the issues that were first raised when the lawsuit was filed.

That would be admitting that they were wrong. No?

Demaestro




msg:3076722
 8:32 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

they don't have an alt attribute on the most important button on the page, the Add to Cart button. Nor do they have alt attributes on other graphic links that might be of interest to a visually disabled person.

Great post but I do have one comment I have to make in regards to my quoted section of your post.

Yes those things are of interest to a visually disabled person, but and this is a big but, should it be legally required?

I think we all agree that using the alt text and making your site available for use to all visually disabled persons is a good thing, and is something you should want to do. But legally required? I have issues with that.

digitalghost




msg:3076737
 8:47 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>But legally required? I have issues with that.

Do you have issues with wheelchair access ramps at restaurants? Handicapped parking spaces? Wheelchair accessible restrooms? Bricks and Mortars did for years. It cost them money to provide such things so they didn't. Until mandates came along.

Legally Required works perfectly for me. It's about equal access. Yeesh, all Target had to do was acknowledge the problem and do something about it.

varya




msg:3076742
 8:52 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

"But is it reasonable to believe blind people want to browse a sight full of photographs?"

Seems like kind of a funny question given the fact that I quoted a blind person who evidently had just browsed a site full of photographs. Presumably, he wished to do so.

There are many reasons a person might visit a photographer's website besides looking at the photos...to purchase a photo as a gift, to hire the photographer or to pursue modeling opportunities.

I can certainly imagine a blind person wishing to visit Target's website...they sell many products through their website that are not available in the stores.

But the whole point of accessibility is that people with disabilities should not have to justify their wish to participate fully in society any more than the rest of us do.

[edited by: varya at 9:01 pm (utc) on Sep. 8, 2006]

rogerd




msg:3076746
 9:00 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you want to do business in the US (or EU, or probably most every other country) you have regulations to meet in a variety of areas. As digitalghost so concisely points out, who would argue with a requirement for wheelchair ramps or a handicap-friendly restroom in a physical Target store? If a Target store wasn't accessible, would it be reasonable to overlook the issue because orders could be placed by phone?

The thing that mystifies me is why Target is fighting this battle instead of at the first whiff of a problem saying, "Hey, you are right - we overlooked some important accessibility features. Our lawyers assure us that this is NOT covered by the ADA, but just to serve our customers better we're going to fix all of the existing problems within 30 days. In addition, we're gpomg take steps to make things even easier in the future." It would have been great PR and the lawsuit almost certainly would have gone away.

Demaestro




msg:3076751
 9:11 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Do you have issues with wheelchair access ramps at restaurants? Handicapped parking spaces? Wheelchair accessible restrooms? Bricks and Mortars did for years. It cost them money to provide such things so they didn't. Until mandates came along.

Nope I have no problem with that, and that is what I am saying.... they have physical access to Target and their products and services, just because they can't use the website doesn't mean they can't use the products or services offered by Target. Just like I can't access certian sites in Firefox. Should they be legally required to allow me access with Firefox?

The issue isn't that the person can't gain access to Target, the issue is that the browser they are using isn't supported by Target's website. I am sure a simple phone call to Target's customer service desk or a trip down to the store would have enabled this person to get what he needed, instead he called his lawyer.

I wonder what other avenues he explored in order to complete his transaction, or did he give up after the website failed to work with his browser and then sued?

To me this is an issue about browser support not disabled access. There is access to Target for the disabled I guarentee it.

Many websites don't support my browser and I have yet to sue over it. Do I think those companies are missing the boat for not supporting my browser? Of course, should they be required by law to though? I still say no.

[edited by: encyclo at 10:54 pm (utc) on Sep. 8, 2006]
[edit reason] fixed quote tag [/edit]

goubarev




msg:3076761
 9:17 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I know what will happen next!

Next Target will put SPAM into Alt tags and then will get sued again ;c)
This time for having it, yet, still being unaccessible!

buckworks




msg:3076765
 9:21 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Just like I can't access certian sites in Firefox. Should they be legally required to allow me access with Firefox?

Demaestro, it is a logical fallacy on your part as well as an insult to blind people everywhere to trivialize blindness by comparing it to someone's choice of browser.

digitalghost




msg:3076766
 9:25 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

The court held: "the 'ordinary meaning' of the ADA's prohibition against discrimination in the enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges, is that whatever goods or services the place provides, it cannot discriminate on the basis of disability in providing enjoyment of those goods and services." The court thus rejected Target's argument that only its physical store locations were covered by the civil rights laws, ruling instead that all services provided by Target, including its Web site, must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

[kare11.com...]

Demaestro




msg:3076767
 9:26 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

The thing that mystifies me is why Target is fighting this battle instead of at the first whiff of a problem saying, "Hey, you are right - we overlooked some important accessibility features. Our lawyers assure us that this is NOT covered by the ADA, but just to serve our customers better we're going to fix all of the existing problems within 30 days. In addition, we're gpomg take steps to make things even easier in the future." It would have been great PR and the lawsuit almost certainly would have gone away.

Perhaps they were left with a sour taste in their mouth after being sued for discrimination. They may have offered a settlement we don't know. But once this fellow called his lawyer and filed then that lawyer is going to be looking for a big pay day and so a nice conversations where Target has the chance to make right their wrong is lost in legal manuvering in efforts to reduce the chance of judgements and then they start listening to lawyers telling them things like:

"take no action that will show wrong doing."
(read fixing the website).

The thing that mystifies me is that instead of just phoning Target's head office or customer service to let them know of the problem and how unsatisfied he was, he did like a good litigous American would do and called his lawyer.

I'm thinking if he had went the customer service route he would have recieved some type of compensation in the form of discount or something, and further I bet that Target's website would have been updating by now, instead the website budget seems to have been blown on legal fees and with lawyers involved it all becomes so much more complicated.

Let me ask this question.

How much money do you feel is fair for this fellow to recive as a result of the discrimination that Target displayed?

Would you call failing to have your website work with screen reader browsers discrimination?

It is a bit of a stretch.

Demaestro




msg:3076772
 9:31 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Demaestro, it is a logical fallacy on your part as well as an insult to blind people everywhere to trivialize blindness by comparing it to someone's choice of browser.

Don't want to insult anyone and sorry if I have. I just see this as a brower compatiability issue rather then a visually impaired one. We are talking about having websites that works with a specific browser are we not?

digitalghost




msg:3076774
 9:35 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>Perhaps they were left with a sour taste in their mouth after being sued for discrimination

Let's clear something up, Target refused to make changes after being contacted and informed on more than one occasion about the accessibility issues. Target wasn't blindsided by a lawsuit. They did make a poor decision by refusing to make changes. Now it's a class action suit.

Demaestro




msg:3076804
 10:32 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

DG

Sorry I missed that.

It all of a sudden feels like I am defending Target.... I am not..... I hate, and I mean HATE when websites aren't tested to work accross all platforms and browsers. I take hours and hours each day to make sure all my sites look the same no matter your browser or OS. That includes proper alt tags.

I just don't like this being required by law.

digitalghost




msg:3076815
 10:49 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>I just don't like this being required by law.

I understand. Not sure I like it either, but I know that the majority of sites will never be accessible unless there's a stick or a carrot involved. Few people seem to recognize any ROI in that carrot so the only thing left is the stick.

This issues hasn't been resolved yet, but I'm wondering if the folks at Target aren't kicking their collective ass for not simply making the changes that were needed.

jrookie




msg:3076818
 10:51 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is totally insane!

What is next?

'Blind gun owner sues rifle range for being denied entry in shooting competition!'

[edited by: jrookie at 10:53 pm (utc) on Sep. 8, 2006]

KenB




msg:3076819
 10:52 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

To me this lawsuit is just deserts for companies who have ignored best web development practices for way too long. In 2006 there is no reasonable excuse for not coding sites to W3C HTML/CSS/XHTML specifications and making at least a basic effort to follow W3C's accessibility guidelines.

It is about time that "professional" web developers be held to higher standards. There are too many "developers" who do not have a basic understanding of the code they are producing. If one can not create valid code without major efforts or doesn't understand how to make ANY website accessible, then they shouldn't be in the web development business. Web development isn't rocket science, and it isn't too much to expect a basic level of competency.

Maybe the upside to this issue will be driving some unskilled wanabe web developers out of the commercial web design business until they have the appropriate skill sets.

In regards to Target's website, I can't believe how completely stupid Target is being about the accessibility issue. Not only would it have been cheaper to fix the issue than fight a legal battle, but it would have paid dividends in regards to increased business.

jrookie




msg:3076827
 11:03 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

"it would have paid dividends in regards to increased business"

I disagree. What is the cost to benefit ratio? How much additional business would a site really get? Let the free market decide what it is cost effective or not. Not the government.

Having a disabled sister in-law, I'm not ignorant to the realties here. How many billions have been spent nation wide to install handicap sidewalks and when was the last time you saw one being used? The same money could have been put to better use. At some point we need to say enough is an enough!

djmick200




msg:3076844
 11:22 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I go to McDonalds but I can't read the menu behind the counter to choose my snack.

I wait on the street for a bus but I can't read the number when it comes.

I go to a bar but I can't see the sign for the toilet when i need to pee.

Im in a strange place but I cant read the street signs to find where I am.

A few examples of obstacles for the visually impaired that are part of everyday life that a sighted person will never have to think about. These simple tasks are taken for granted, and so they should be. But what of a person who has eye trouble?

There are severals options:
1. adapt and overcome
2. ask for help
3. take a guide
4. find an alternative

Harsh? Not at all. How big does the writing on the McDonalds menus have to be? The numbers on a bus? The signs in a bar? The text size on a street sign?

Should I sue McDonalds because I can't read the menu behind the counter as the text is too small as I have only 10% vision? Absolutely not. Use 1 to 4 from above and I'll get my burger.

The whole disability rights issue has gone too far. You can't change everything for everyone with a disability.

There are plenty more places that sell what Target does. Go and use one of them. Problem solved.

As for me, most of the time number 1 suits me best - adapt and overcome.

If i go to somewhere and have a difficulty because of my vision and I am not happy then I find an alternative, I don't run around suing people and screaming how my rights as a disabled person have been violated.

LifeinAsia




msg:3076848
 11:29 pm on Sep 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

What is next?
'Blind gun owner sues rifle range for being denied entry in shooting competition!'

"Widow of gun owner sues gun company because they did not make their product safe for stupid/drunk people"

oneguy




msg:3076872
 12:21 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I really don't get the reason for the hostility.

Probably because of the uncertainty. Exactly what changes need to be made? When is a picture adequately described?

alt= "blue corvette driving on two lane road in the mountains"

alt = "blue corvette"

alt = "mountains"

alt = "road"

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.

What if I'm a small business owner and this will put me out of business? What if I have to shut the site down over liability concerns and visually impaired people can't access the site at all? What if my site is about poor web design and has examples of what won't work with a screen reader?

Let's clear something up, Target refused to make changes after being contacted and informed on more than one occasion about the accessibility issues. Target wasn't blindsided by a lawsuit. They did make a poor decision by refusing to make changes. Now it's a class action suit.

True, I would have fixed this if I were Target.

If such a ruling causes small business websites to be taken down, it sure won't be a good thing for the web as a whole. What about those with mobility problems? Is it fair to make them come to my brick store and use the ramp?

vincevincevince




msg:3076939
 2:00 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

A point many are missing here is that it will alter the barriers to webmaster work. At the moment anyone with a copy of Frontpage Express can knock out a website and whatever it looks like they can upload it. Those websites will not be permissable any more, not unless the guy spends time learning about specific regulations they need to meet.

I'm sure that years ago anyone with a bit of common sense would have been allowed to tie some logs together across a river. I'm sure at the same time there were people engineering quality bridges who didn't like the idea of all bridges having to meet certain standards of safety and quality.

Whilst there are limits to what should be legally required in terms of accessibility, the core functionality should certainly be accessible. I hope that Target lose and every other US website starts a scramble to get up to scratch. Sometimes it takes a big push to get an industry to adopt something good.

bedlam




msg:3076945
 2:15 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

There are a lot of participants in this thread that are either missing or intentionally obfuscating the basic issue here. The web--being overwhelmingly text-based--is
inherently accessible.

In order to render html documents inaccessible, it is necessary to take specific steps (such as omitting meaningful text in the alt attribute of non-decorative images). And when such steps are taken they are either deliberate, or the result of incompetence.

Lets face it in every other profession, it is entirely ordinary for practitioners to be aware of, advise their clients of, and take steps to minimize the legal liabilities involved in the execution of their day to day work.

It's also perfectly ordinary for the purchasers of professional services in other industries to familiarize themselves with their legal responsibilities and to ensure that their choice of contractors does not expose them to undue legal jeopardy.

This case, like it or not (and, as I see vincevincevince has just pointed out), represents a big step towards the eventual professionalization of the web-development industry.

-b

<edit reason="speeeling" />

[edited by: bedlam at 2:42 am (utc) on Sep. 9, 2006]

jtara




msg:3076953
 2:29 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I really don't get the reason for the hostility.

A lot of people operate web businesses who have never operated a retail brick and mortar business. Many of them are ignorant (I mean this in the most benign way...) of the requirements of running a brick-and-mortar business. There are many issues they have never faced, either because the issues truely don't apply to them, because they simply don't THINK that they apply to them (even though you do), and/or the law is just catching-up with the web.

Small business owners in the "real world" have to deal with these issues. If you don't like a law, you either lobby to have the law changed, ignore the law and hope you don't get caught, or operate in a part of town where the law isn't particularly enforced, or in the "underground economy".

I'm shocked but not surprised that so many who run web businesses seem to go leaning toward the last two options.

We do seem to be approaching the point where, on the Internet, everybody DOES know when you're a dog. ;)

buckworks




msg:3076962
 2:38 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

to install handicap sidewalks and when was the last time you saw one being used

A sidewalk with an accessible curb cut is no more expensive to install than an ordinary sidewalk with a continuous curb if you build it right in the first place.

You'll see those little ramps being used by young moms pushing baby carriages, by senior citizens pulling grocery tote carts, by the paper carrier using a wagon to deliver the heavy weekend edition, by hotshot teenagers on skate boards, along with the wheelchair users they were originally intended to facilitate.

Things that make life easier for people with mobility or other challenges make life easier for other people as well.

What if I'm a small business owner and this will put me out of business?

Puh-leeeeez spare us the inflated rhetoric. It's not that hard to add tweaks such as ALT attributes, fer cryin' out loud, and if the small effort required would be enough to put you out of business, you're in deep, deep trouble already.

[edited by: buckworks at 2:41 am (utc) on Sep. 9, 2006]

voices




msg:3076963
 2:39 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Where are the alt tags when the blind people go the brick and mortar store? There is nothing that tells a blind person what color a shirt is or what a poster is of.

After my eye exam I couldn't see well enough to drive so I went into the store to look around till my eyes cleared up. Do you know how boring it is to look around when you can't see price tags? Maybe all price tags should be required to be made larger. I can't tell you how mad I get when my sight is normal and I can't find a price tag on something I want to buy, but I never thought to sue someone because of it.

The question is where do you draw the line? A brick and mortar store has to have ramps so people can get in. Is there a law that says everything must be down low enough so a person in a wheelchair can reach it? Do all aisles have to be wide enough for a wheelchair to pass by? I have squeezed between some pretty crowded clothing racks out there.

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