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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.

 

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.

vincevincevince




msg:3076968
 2:56 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Where are the alt tags when the blind people go the brick and mortar store?

The vast majority of store have well trained attentive staff who will guide a blind shopper around the store in person as soon as they enter. It is also common for a blind person to stand just inside and await service. That's where the ALT tags are.

If you build accessible technology with which you can guide visually impaired persons through your ecommerce system in the same way then great, miss out the ALT tags.

simey




msg:3076978
 3:07 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

The vast majority of store have well trained attentive staff who will guide a blind shopper around the store in person

huh?

rogerd




msg:3076996
 3:33 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>What is the cost to benefit ratio?

This question is irrelevant to ADA compliance. The cost of having wheelchair-accessible entrances, aisles, restrooms, etc. has nothing to do with costs and benefits. It's not a business decision driven by economics, it's a question of complying with the law (and, perhaps, doing one's civic duty).

Happily for web designers, the costs of making a site accessible to the blind are fairly trivial, and are part of good design practice anyway. Why would one NOT apply appropriate ALT attributes, for example?

Easy_Coder




msg:3076998
 3:35 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

PageOneResults, I went and looked at amazon.com and they've accomplished this fairly easily.

At first I admit that it seemed daunting to deliver a mousefree experience but actaully these pages remind me of the www back in 1995. They look very simple to build, sorta like a normal site that lost its stylesheet.

Tab away at... amazon.com/access/

Oh and I noticed that I couldn't tab into the page with an IE7 Beta Browser. I can with IE6 and FireFox.

vincevincevince




msg:3077025
 4:13 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>What is the cost to benefit ratio?

That's why laws are needed, to improve the economic case. Sure, you might save $500 by not modifying the store. If you've a 10% chance of being done for not modifying it, and it will cost an average of $10,000 fine/compensation then the cost to benefit ratio is 1:2.

simey:
huh?

Not sure what country you are from but it's standard practice everywhere I've been for blind persons either to be personally guided around the store by staff, or for staff to fetch products requested by the blind person who then stays put until time to checkout.

varya




msg:3077071
 6:37 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Obviously a lot of folks here have never worked retail.

If a blind person comes into the store and needs help with colors, styles, sizes, etc. a staff person helps.

You also get to write notes back and forth with deaf people if you don't know sign language.

And yes, quite a few things do need to be at a height that people in wheelchairs can reach (in the U.S. anyway)...door handles, at least one sink in the bathroom, towels, hand dryers, light switches... And the light switches have to be of a variety that can be turned on by bumping it rather than grabbing it.

And at least one set of doors has to be fully automated or open with less than a certain poundage of pull.

And aisles have to be wide enough for wheelchairs...there's actually a minimum inch requirement. If it's not possible to do it everywhere, then a staff person must come and fetch things to the person in the wheelchair.

And they have to provide a surface at a good height for a person in a wheelchair to write a check or access to POS machine.

There are many, many more standard accommodations out there...they're so common you probably don't even think of them as anything special anymore.

old_expat




msg:3077100
 7:46 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

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).

Strongly disagree with "... it is necessary to take specific steps ..."

I use Dreamweaver and have never seen it insert an [alt=""] by default when inserting an image.

And when such steps are taken they are either deliberate, or the result of incompetence.

Um .. maybe, maybe not. Never made an honest mistake, have you?

oneguy




msg:3077140
 9:41 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

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.

Everyone might not have it as easy as you do, or might not be as good as you at something, or might not run a business as well as you do. I can't count the number of people I know who live paycheck to paycheck. They are "in deep, deep trouble already." I know many small business owners who are "in deep, deep trouble already." You act as if the only choice is throwing those people away or throwing the visually impaired away.

Most of this thread seems to say one has to be absolutely for this, or one has to hate the blind and have no compassion for the disabled. It would be nice if everything were so easy.

le_gber




msg:3077152
 10:50 am on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I use Dreamweaver and have never seen it insert an [alt=""] by default when inserting an image.

old_expat which version of dreamweaver do you use?

I agree that with old version of DW it did't flag missing alt attributes, but in DW2004 you can select 'empty' from a drop down when you click on an image (in DW properties toolbar - bottom of the screen), and I know that in DW8, when you add an image, a table, a form or any element - an accessibility popup appears and you need to fill it (or ignore it) before it ads the element you want added.

Macromedia has made huge effort to improve the accessibility of the sites that come out of DW. But many webdesigner still ignore the accessibility issue - some because they don't know exactly what each of the accessibility element does and don't know how it helps the screen readers (or as it's been mentionned the SE spiders), other because they can't be bothered.

Anyway - it only takes minutes to validate your entire site using free automated tools and if you have a site with thousands of pages I assume that you use some for of templating system so it may be good to test the template before launching the site.

I am not for automated testing but it's a good way to cover the basics like missing alt attributes.

I agree that if this judgment get enforced a lot of 'web designer' might disapear and have to catch up on the accessibility front. But I think that it will be a good thing as it will 'sanitise' the web design industry.

Some large companies might end up being targeted by people who may want to make a quick buck, but if they can take a hint, this story surely is 'big' enough a hint to start checking their site.

voices




msg:3077217
 1:03 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have having trouble finding the ada laws on web design. Maybe I am blind but perhaps someone can point it out.

[usdoj.gov...]

As a web designer I think I should have a link to it on my web site.

I see where people were given tax credits for making their building accessible. Will they do the same with old web sites that need to be redone?

[edited by: encyclo at 1:09 pm (utc) on Sep. 9, 2006]
[edit reason] fixed link [/edit]

djmick200




msg:3077235
 1:38 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)


The vast majority of store have well trained attentive staff who will guide a blind shopper around the store in person as soon as they enter. It is also common for a blind person to stand just inside and await service. That's where the ALT tags are.

are you talking from experience? IMO no as if you were you would know this is simply not the case.

Someone said a few posts back about people missing the point. I agree with the statement but not how it was intended.

First thing to ask is where does accessibility for the disabled end? It has to end somewhere. There has to come a point where the line is drawn.

If you say where is that? Well I don't have the answer but should I ask or demand McDonalds to alter the menus? Should all shops have price tags I can read?

Bottom line is no they shouldn't as I'm a minority, as are wheelchair bound or any other person with a disability.

To think the entire world should be changed to assist me in my life because I'm visually impaired is simply absurd.

And that is the point that is being missed - not only by posters on this thread but other disabled people who think the world should be changed to meet there needs regardless of the impact on others (and I have met many like this) and also politicians & government officials - there is only so much that can be done for the disabled. A line has to be drawn otherwise where will it end?

oldpro




msg:3077246
 2:04 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

With this ruling, somebody could get rich by inventing a monitor that displays in braille

ken_b




msg:3077259
 2:50 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

A good bit of this thread sounds like it was written by professional activists rather than professional webmasters.

encyclo




msg:3077262
 2:53 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

With this ruling, somebody could get rich by inventing a monitor that displays in braille

Do you mean like a refreshable braille display [deafblind.com]? You'd be surprised what technology exists to help blind users access the web.

By the way, the above link is on a site called A-Z to Deafblindness [deafblind.com]:

[deafblind.com...]

The person who created the site is both blind and profoundly deaf. There is a good page with Information About Deafblindness [deafblind.com]:

(...) For me however, computers are my GATEWAY to the outside world. Like many other deafblind and blind people on the Net, I can access information, such as the newspapers, magazines, especially PC magazines, but they just usually give little extracts from a PC magazine, although that's better than nothing. There are also many great archives of the great classic books on the Net. You may be saying to yourself so what, but to people like myself who cannot have access to such material it's great. The Net to us is like our public library, and it is our corner shop to get our newspapers as well.

I have been on the Net for well over Ten years now. I have taught myself all about computers, but am still learning more and more every day. Some people find it very hard to believe that people like myself are capable of creating and maintaining a web site. I made A-Z to Deafblindness on my own without the help of anyone.

The web is an incredible resource for blind people who are not able to just jump in the car and drive down to the closest shopping mall. The issue is not where "it is all going to end", but where should we be starting in trying to ensure that our sites are usable and accesible to the widest possible audience.

voices




msg:3077282
 3:28 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

The question is where are the ADA laws for web sites? Can we be sued if our sites are not accessible? Is a web site like a building or like a mail order catalog? Certainly people can not be expected to comply wihtout federal guidelines.

bedlam




msg:3077342
 4:32 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

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).

Strongly disagree with "... it is necessary to take specific steps ..."

If an authoring tool produces invalid code [w3.org], the developers of the tool have either explicitly decided to ignore accessibility, or they haven't bothered to familiarize themselves with the relevant published [w3.org] standards [w3.org].

And when such steps are taken they are either deliberate, or the result of incompetence.

Um .. maybe, maybe not. Never made an honest mistake, have you?

Then let me clarify: mistakes are one thing, but when software developers or web-page authors systematically omit basic accessibility features--features whose absence will be flagged as errors if the code is checked [validator.w3.org]--either a) the omission is deliberate, or b) the omission is a result of that developer's lack of relevant knowledge.

None of this is new; the html 4.01 spec is dated December 24, 1999, html 3.2 was superseded by html 4.0 almost 9 years ago [w3.org] and section 508 was enacted in 1998 [section508.gov].

The question is where are the ADA laws for web sites?

A basic familiarity with Section 508 [section508.gov] might have kept Target out of trouble:

Many of these provisions ensure access for people with vision impairments who rely on various assistive products to access computer-based information, such as screen readers ... and refreshable Braille displays. Certain conventions, such as verbal tags or identification of graphics and format devices, like frames, are necessary so that these devices can "read" them for the user in a sensible way. The standards do not prohibit the use of web site graphics or animation. Instead, the standards aim to ensure that such information is also available in an accessible format. Generally, this means use of text labels or descriptors for graphics and certain format elements. (HTML code already provides an "Alt Text" tag for graphics which can serve as a verbal descriptor for graphics). Empahsis added

As has already been pointed out, 'brick and mortar' businesses must comply with a whole host of regulations in order to start and stay in business, and their contractors (architects, builders, engineers, product-designers) must also clear various regulatory hurdles and assume professional responsibility for their work.

The requirements on the web--even after a judgement like this one--are extremely modest by comparison.

-b

[edit]Even the authors of Section 508 refer to the alt attribute as the '"Alt Text" tag'...argh[/edit]

[edited by: bedlam at 4:41 pm (utc) on Sep. 9, 2006]

buckworks




msg:3077345
 4:36 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Certainly people can not be expected to comply wihtout federal guidelines

Section 508: The Road to Accessibility

Official website for Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act.

[section508.gov...]

jtara




msg:3077359
 5:02 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Section 508 only applies to federal agencies - not private industry.

The web site, however, has a lot of excellent material on accessability.

The ADA is more vague, and does not give specific requirements for websites. One can reasonably expect, however, that it will eventually be amended to have provisions similar to Section 508. Why not start preparing now?

Here's an opinion from the National Council on Disability that the ADA does, in fact, apply to commercial and private websites:

[accessiblesociety.org...]

As pointed-out in the article above, the Internet (at least in it's current, publically-accessible form) did not exist when the ADA was written.

The article above has a broken link to the following article, "When the Americans With Disabilities Act Goes Online: Application of the ADA to the Internet and the Worldwide Web". I'm including it below. It has quite a through examination and analysis of the issue, and is well-researched, contaning nearly 90 references:

[ncd.gov...]

Finally, I remind those here who are Americans of something you should have learned in Civics 101: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse". That might not seem "fair", but it's the way the law works in the U.S. It is your responsibility to know the law.

[edited by: encyclo at 12:45 am (utc) on Sep. 15, 2006]

jrookie




msg:3077482
 6:53 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

“But I think that it will be a good thing, as it will 'sanitize' the web design industry.”

I’m new here. I came here to get some tips on how to improve the web site for the small company I own and operate (electronic OEM manufacturing).

I’m one of the guys that use ‘Front Page’ for layout and clean up by hacking my way through html, java, etc.

The above quote seems to imply that the web should be the private domain of the professional web designer and this new ruling will promote the competent while at the same time remove the riff-raff.

?

My opposition is that it is just one more governmental regulation that impedes production and in the vast majority of cases, does not help the intended people. No one wants to be insensitive but there has to a practical balance. Although they might find it interesting reading, no blind person is going to be buying the space shuttle parts (literally) that we make.

Again, let the market decide. If there is a huge advantage to the additional overhead, companies will implement it, but don’t force it down their throat.

oldpro




msg:3077486
 6:57 pm on Sep 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

This ruling will be overturned. I doubt that federal ADA regulations address such things as alt tags and website accessability for the impaired as of yet.

Therefore...no violation.

sabai




msg:3077649
 12:45 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

In the UK it has been a legal requirement to make websites accessible to disabled people for years through the Disability Discrimination Act. I would have assumed it was a requirement for the US too...

If this ruling is overturned (and I seriously hope it isn't) then legislation will be required.

I am outraged that Target couldn't be bothered to build their site with a basic minimum of accessibility. Shame on them and shame twice anybody who attempts to defend their indefensible behaviour.

voices




msg:3077661
 1:51 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

They are trying to apply old ADA rules to current technology. There is a very easy to understand phamplet on what buildings must do to comply and exisiting buildings were given time to be brought up to standards. The same needs to be done for websites.

To me the web is like a print catalog. I expect the idea of ADA compliance never even enters the mind of most people. People don't see their sites as a place of business. Most people have no idea how a web site is even put together. Many people don't even make them accessible to search engines!

If the government wants all sites to be ADA compliant they need to come up with a set up of well defined rules. I would think something could be put together in a day, so no doubt the government could get it done in a year.

Why don't print catalogs have to comply with ADA rules? Is anyone sueing target because they can't read the fliers they send out in the mail?

bedlam




msg:3077673
 2:17 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Most people have no idea how a web site is even put together.

This is precisely the problem in the first place--90% of what Target may now be forced to do would already have been done had their developers simply validated the code output by their cart application in the first place.

I bet that not one person in twenty could--or would even think to--build a wheelchair ramp for their physical business, but that in neither fact exempts them from the requirement to provide one.

-b

sabai




msg:3077684
 2:34 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Although they might find it interesting reading, no blind person is going to be buying the space shuttle parts (literally) that we make.

I believe that this is probably a common attitude, though it is quite prejudiced. It is a perfect example of why the law needs to cover accessibility.

The fact is that a blind people do use the web, they do buy things online and they do use the web for essential employment/business activities - quite possibly including purchasing parts for NASA.

For some good resources on accesibility check out the American Foundation for the Blind (US) and Royal National Institute of the Blind (UK) websites.

[afb.org...]
[rnib.org.uk...]

bouncybunny




msg:3077791
 6:36 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Having worked - at a corporate level - in the area of web accessible design, I always found that the two best arguments for getting companies to make their web sites accessible are;

1. You are losing money if you don't allow the several million blind and partially sited visitors access to your products. There are webmasters who spend several hours (days?) a week messing about with Meta descriptions and title tags for who knows what kind of miniscule benefits. They would probably earn a lot more by making their sites accessble to a whole new market.

2. It's really easy to do. The amount of effort involved in making a web site accessible - at least at the very basic level - is so little that it seems to me that any site that does not make this effort, almost has to go out of their way to do so.

Target didn't even bother with alt descriptions. How hard is that to code into a content management system with the kind of budget they've got?

le_gber




msg:3077804
 7:23 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

But I think that it will be a good thing, as it will 'sanitize' the web design industry.

I’m new here. I came here to get some tips on how to improve the web site for the small company I own and operate (electronic OEM manufacturing).

I’m one of the guys that use ‘Front Page’ for layout and clean up by hacking my way through html, java, etc.

The above quote seems to imply that the web should be the private domain of the professional web designer and this new ruling will promote the competent while at the same time remove the riff-raff.

jrookie, that's why I used 'the web design industry'. I meant the web design companies that cut corners by delivering non-valid websites or do not mention the benefits - and almost legal requirements - of having an accessible website. I did not imply that it will sanitize the web to have mom and pop business (or owner managed website) sued by people.

The fact that you are here on WebmasterWorld means that you are willing to learn and listen to what more experienced people have to say (I do not mean that in a derogatory way). I would assume that you came here to learn about how to make your website generate more business for your company? SEO is one way. Making your site valid and accessible is another.

KenB




msg:3077809
 7:37 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

What amazes me is how many times I have heard the argument that making sites accessible and/or designing to W3C specifications is more expensive.

In the long run it is ALWAYS cheaper and more efficient to design/develop and validate to W3C HTML & CSS specifications because it aids in the debugging process during development and it future proofs a site against changes in browsers. Following these specifications also helps develop good coding practices that in the end make it easier to update code later on.

Furthermore, it is no harder to use good design practices that incorporate accessibility guidelines than it is to code sloppy code that is a pain to fix later. If one is finding it very hard to make one's pages accessible then one probably did something really wrong to begin with.

It should also be noted that good accessibility is also good for search engines. For most websites SEO is very important and good SEO and good accessibility practices go hand in hand.

In Target's case if it is really that hard for them to retrofit their site to make it accessible then they had completely incompetent developers build their site the first time around.

If web developers do not understand the mechanics and theories that underlie HTML and CSS specifications and thus understand how to structure their HTML properly, they have no business being in the web development business. Accessibility isn't much more than understanding how to structure the order of HTML code in a logical fashion, understanding and using ALT/TITLE attributes correctly and understanding and using the LABEL tag correctly in forms such that text descriptions can be tied to the proper form field. This isn't bloody rocket science folks. All it takes is a little willingness to learn how to do ones job correctly.

In the long run anyone who shifts over to generating valid code will find it to be a much faster way of programming.

le_gber




msg:3077811
 7:44 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

understanding and using ALT/TITLE attributes correctly and understanding and using the LABEL tag correctly in forms

which is exactly what was missing from the Target website. And which are Lvl1 or the WCAG - it's not as if they were asked to be triple a compliant!

4serendipity




msg:3077855
 9:27 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)


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

Maybe in a blind person wants to purchase a print as a gift. Stranger things have happened lol

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.

Target has had plenty of time to fix their site.

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.

I puzzled over this too. I'd gladly make their site accessible for the amount that they're paying in legal fees.

As others have stated, the Web is an inherently accessible medium. To create in accessible displays a lack of desire, laziness, or incompetence on the part of the developer. Creating sites with an acceptable level of accessibility isn't hard at all.

oneguy




msg:3077872
 10:05 am on Sep 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

They are trying to apply old ADA rules to current technology. There is a very easy to understand phamplet on what buildings must do to comply and exisiting buildings were given time to be brought up to standards. The same needs to be done for websites.

Exactly. If you want to start talking about what the rules should be and who they should apply to, people start acting like you're a rich person who enjoys kicking blind people. People seem to assume that everyone is capable of making a compliant website and that everyone is lazy or insensitive and undeserving of a website if they don't.

I know a webmaster who is mentally disabled. This person has worked very hard over several years to build a few websites, and is squeaking a living out with the help of those websites. Could this person follow some online ADA guidelines if they were made aware of them? Maybe. I imagine they would like to. However, I just don't have high hopes of their code ever being valid. They have way more time than money and can't afford to pay someone.

Does this person deserve to be sued by a blind person tomorrow? Who would you guys like to support in the fight between the visually impaired and the mentally challenged?

There are plenty of examples in law where rules apply to companies of various types and sizes. It seems quite unfair to have a mentally challenged person live up to the same standards as a web design company. I also don't see why anyone would want to throw this mentally challenged person off the web because they don't have and can't afford the skills of a web design company.

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