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Judge Certifies Class Action Lawsuit against Target Website

 1:11 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Reuters via Yahoo! News: Judge allows class action against Target Web site [news.yahoo.com]

A federal judge in California certified a class action lawsuit against Target Corp brought by plaintiffs claiming the discount retailer's Web site is inaccessible to the blind, according to court documents.

Also see:

  • Blind Student Sues Site Owner Claiming Civil-Rights Violations Over Alt Text [webmasterworld.com]
  • Federal Judge Sustains Discrimination Claims Against Target.com website [webmasterworld.com]
  • Group Sues to Make Online Retailers Answer to the Blind [webmasterworld.com]


     2:21 am on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    I just hope that they don't 'settle'. I've never liked this 'settling' concept as it makes a mockery of a common law system. If you want to settle then you do it before you file the first document. No judgement means no precedent so the law doesn't get a chance to clarify the issue and avoid future problems of the same type.


     2:32 am on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    I just hope that they don't 'settle'.

    Yes, but it is cheaper for them to do so. Either way, the lawyer gets his/her cut.



     4:26 am on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    Before you go slamming people who already had life slam them in the face with a massive disability, learn a bit about the issue. As an added benefit, it will improve your website skills and a secret too, will help seo. If the blind can access your site, it will be much easier for search engines to do so as well.

    Google Mark Pilgrim, he wrote a great tutorial on the subject. Find the video of the blind Yahoo guy who works on their accessibility. It will be a real eye opener and maybe you will no longer be blind on this issue.

    It is an important test case and if you dig deeper a very appropriate one. I pray they win.

    <small rant>America is turning into America Incorporated. Independent businesses are finding it very hard to compete w/ big box retailers. They can't afford to buy in China, to get lobbyists, advertise on TV. With their lobbyists writing a lot of the legislation, they are becoming a quasi-governmental organization whether we like it or not.

    The situation sucks, but at least the government makes sure to serve those unfortunate ones with disabilities. The big box retailers should do the same. It's the right thing to do. This law is appropriate. And to a huge organization like Target, it costs peanuts to fix. A lot less than an access ramp.</small rant>

    The ajax question is an interesting issue worth exploring in the context of this suit though. There are some things you can do w/ Ajax that you can't do w/ regular web technology. I suspect there will be development to make ajax accessible to screen readers. But if the law is going to change, what is the accessible way to deal w/ ajax? Provide an alternate way to do the same thing? Is just degrading properly sufficient?

    Obviously there are some things you can't offer. To take the previous example, a blind person needs a ramp to go into the auto showroom, but he's not going to be allowed a test drive and will never have a drivers license. Just like gmail has advanced ajax features that you don't get in the html version, but either version you can still use email...


     11:26 am on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    I see nothing wrong with a law requiring sites to be accessible. What is wrong, is suing someone when there is no law that currently requires it. There are millions of web pages out there, time needs to be given to companies to become compliant. I don't see how sucking money out of a company that they could use to fix their web site helps. Change the law, give companies a reasonable amount of time to comply.

    There are going to be a lot of busy webmasters if every site on the internet has to become accessible. Companies will be waiting in line to have their sites fixed. Many may just have to take their sites down and make the information inaccessible to everyone while they wait.


     11:36 am on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    I recently switched the CMS of one of my website to Papoo, a CMS that is compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. While I do not know how many people with disabilities use my website I know that my ranking in the SERPS has risen considerably.

    Remember that search engine spiders are kind of "blind", too. The criteria for a website with proper SEO are the same as for an accessible website.


     1:17 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    I agree that time needs to be given. Remember when the computer first came out? It was not something a blind or disabled person could pick up and use. It took time and Microsoft developed the computer. The same time should be extended to site owners and there should be a standard set. There is nothing wrong in giving companies time to comply and standards.


     1:47 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    and there should be a standard set

    Ask, and ye shall receive [w3.org].


     5:32 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    Whats next? The deaf sue Apple over the Ipod not being useful to them?
    I don't understand the commotion. Target has a store where they can go and "feel" things.
    What now? Should I make my photography website compliant for the blind so they can buy my photos and hang them on their wall?


     6:13 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    So is law now going to be based on the standards of w3.org?

    If I am a business owner/architect/engineer and want to build a brick and mortar building... I have government issued building codes to follow... I have government inspectors to advise me of my short comings.... It is all laid out for me

    What do I have as a web designer? The WAI Mission is great... hardly legally binding... and if it is going to be legally binding then they should say so in law.

    If the courts rule that w3.org standards are the standards we MUST adhere to when it comes to accessibility then fine... They need to state that in law so we know.... When Target built their site such a ruling was not in place and still isn't.

    Suing them for not meeting a standard that has not been described in law is unfair.

    Holding them accountable to a law meant for brick and Mortar buildings is unfair... how were they to know that brick and mortar standards apply to a web page that allows someone to make a purchase online? That is a legal stretch for the courts to say that.

    For a business man before this all happened to say...

    "we should review brick and mortar accessibility laws and make sure our website is complaint"

    That would be clarvioant.

    I think we should have laws in place for this..... BUT simply using the ones that could not have envisioned this application is WRONG.

    Am I the only one that sees this?

    All I am calling for is a seperate piece of legislation that is specific to websites.... why is that so wrong?


     6:14 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    Whats next? The deaf sue Apple over the Ipod not being useful to them?

    I'd like to remind everyone that they should read the lawsuit and the particulars that are being discussed. While it may "seem" like a frivolous lawsuit, it's actually rather ground breaking for disability advocates.

    Target set themselves up for this. They had plenty of forewarning to correct the issues before litigation became an option. They either ignored those initial warnings or they realized that the technology they were using prevented them from meeting the demands with minimal cost.

    I'll bet they are wishing they would have done the right thing to begin with and rebuilt those areas that presented issues for those users. Either that, or provided an alternative method for users with disabilities to order online.

    We are talking about the "simplest" methods of assisting those with disabilities. Many of the issues revolved around images not having alt attributes assigned so the user had no idea what the image was. We're talking about the Buy Now Buttons too. That was just one of many similar challenges during the browsing experience of the Target.com website. Its an application driven website that gives very little consideration to accessibility.


     6:30 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)


    You want a law: [section508.gov...]

    Passed by Congress in 1998. This plus a few California laws is what the suit is based on.


     6:44 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    Section 508 applies to Federal Agencies.

    Section 508 requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. IT Accessibility & Workforce Division, in the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy, has been charged with the task of educating Federal employees and building the infrastructure necessary to support Section 508 implementation. Using this web site, Federal employees and the public can access resources for understanding and implementing the requirements of Section 508.

    Back to the Target case, here's an interesting quote from another source...

    The ruling was issued in a case brought by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The suit charges that Target failed and refused to make its Web site (www.target.com) accessible to the blind and, therefore, violated the ADA as well as two California civil rights statutes: the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.

    Emphasis mine. Target refused to make the changes to its website prior to the lawsuit being filed. This has been brewing for quite some time and there are many people involved. This is a Class Action Lawsuit and for that to come to fruit requires quite a bit of supporting evidence.

    Hehehe, a bit late don't you think?

    Judge Patel's order Friday noted that Target has modified its Web site some since the suit's filing to make the site more accessible to the blind. Target claimed the suit should therefore be dismissed, but Judge Patel ruled against that argument.

    In reference to one of the Statutes used in this lawsuit. This is referring to the Unruh Act...

    All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever. Civil Code section 51(b).

    The Act is meant to cover all arbitrary and intentional discrimination by a business establishment on the basis of personal characteristics similar to those listed above.

    Emphasis mine again. That one paragraph from the Act sums up Target's actions in this case.

    [edited by: pageoneresults at 7:07 pm (utc) on Oct. 4, 2007]


     6:53 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    traxx... thanks

    I still think that the method that these screen readers post forms is questionable, but that is a whole other topic.

    From the sounds of it Target was asking for this and got it.

    I don't find the lawsuit frivolous. I still find the whole notion that if a screen reader can't do something on a site....that it is the sole problem of the site. If the screen reader software is to give the user the same browsing experience as a normal browser then isn't that software to share in the responsibility when that doesn't happen?

    I know that Target was given ample time to accommodate the readers and chose not to which to me I still don't understand either.... takes a real son-of-a-*** to take feedback on user experience for a website and ignore it altogether. Especially with the nature of the complaint being as it was... I mean someone just wanted to buy something online and now this.... all because some hard-ass wouldn't listen.


     7:02 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    I've not read the suit, or really even read into the entire situation... so I'm only qualified to give the opinion of one who is ignorant of all the facts, but to be honest I'm tired of being told how my website has to operate.

    Accessibility is important insofar as ensuring that everyone can visit and use your website, and it's certainly a good idea... but IMHO if I want to make your eyes bleed because my site has 8pt fixed fonts and blue on green text all within a 25mb flash movie, then you should be able to vote with your mouse. The law shouldn't force me to change that, even if I do sell something. My business wouldn't make much money that way... and that's a fitting punishment for my ignorance (assuming I built websites like that... ack).

    Federal Agencies, as outlined in Section 508, are a different matter since they are run by the Government. They are not private businesses, and should be held to a higher standard. The government isn't entitled to the freedom of making inaccessible websites... but as a private citizen I certainly feel as though I am. If you want to call me a jerk or a bad designer because of how I exercise that freedom, that is certainly your right. If you want to boycott me and my site, organize rallies and protests, and even put up your own site about what a bad experience you had... fine, but don't sue me just because I made a design decision that prevented you from sending me money.

    Just my .02

    [edited by: Duskrider at 7:04 pm (utc) on Oct. 4, 2007]


     9:11 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)


    Personally I think a business should be of a certain size before some law should be in effect forcing them to have an accessible version of the site for the blind. This standard should not be applied to a mom and pop shop. So I agree a lot with what you're saying. Target however is on a different level. It is a megastore...

    BTW, the reason this topic interested me is because I just started to learn about accessibility myself. I read Zeldman's book, Pilgrim's tutorial and that yahoo video I mentioned. Add to those books "Don't make me think" by Steven Krug (thanks Sugarrae), and put it all together was the first time I made a fundamental change to the way I think about the web in a decade. I couldn't believe how much I learned. And as a web designer, I cannot recommend studying those items more. It will take your skills to a whole new level.

    The funny thing is, I don't want Target or the big boxes to rank better. So to be selfish, I hope they stay blind to the issue. Ironically, them losing will give all the big guys who follow "suit" w/ more accessible websites, an even better SEO advantage than they start with. So this lawsuit will probably wind up saving Target money because the investment they put to comply will more than be made up for in increased sales and exposure.

    When you're that big, sometimes you win even when you lose.


     9:18 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    in all business establishments

    IN I wouldnt consider a web page as being in a biz establishment.

    And why are some people saying it only applies to shopping cart sites? Don't blind people need to hire plumbers? They can't read the phone book can they? Seems like they would go to the web.


     9:34 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    They can't read the phone book can they?

    Interesting point.

    I have a family member who recently became visually impaired due to macular degeneration. As a result, methinks by telephone company tariffs, she is now entitled to 411 telephone assistance and (I believe) operator assistance, both without charge.

    Makes sense, from a "business access to the disabled" and ADA compliance point of view. She's not actually going "to the phone company" but, due since the phone company "brings their business to her home" it seems fair that a reasonable accommodation be made.

    I suspect that this "phone company accommodation to the visually impaired" may not be spelled out in perfectly clear terms in the ADA legislation but that wouldn't surprise me, at least no more so than the statute doesn't spell out access to websites or possibly even failing to spell out a need for television stations to offer "closed captioning".

    Legislation cannot foresee or anticipate everything. That is why there's a process to amend statutes, laws, ordinances and regulations. That is why statutes have definition sections that don't attempt to define every every application of the law but instead attempt to define principles that guide when, where and how the law would apply. That is why courts are empowered to interpret statutes based upon a laws "legislative history". If the courts get it wrong, as evidenced by the (misguided) actions of courts - or administrative agencies - then the legislature can freely amend the law to clarify its application or intent.

    Target's lawyers, like anyone else's lawyers, was likely arguing for a certain interpretation of the law. Nothing new or unusual in that. Who hasn't read about efforts of tax lawyers to craft interpretations of laws to favor certain profitable actions? Think "tax shelters", a clear example of a "calculated risk" in interpreting tax laws. Tax laws aren't the only laws that business lawyers "spin" - interpret - in their client's favor.

    There's nothing new to report here vis-a-vis statutory interpretation. Wrangling the language of laws, codes and statutues with their authors is likely older than the Code of Hammurabi. I'm sure any oracle, deity or other ancient law giver would confirm this. :0/ (Heck, even my kids will debate the law of the house. "No, that's not what you said . . and if you did, that's not what you meant . . and if you did, you spoke it too softly or in an ambiguous way . . or you made an exception for her . . so why am I being treated differently? Besides, it's a Saturday and that rule only applies Monday - Friday. Argh.)

    [edited by: Webwork at 9:50 pm (utc) on Oct. 4, 2007]


     11:28 pm on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

    But if she calls to get a number, doesn't she have to know who she is calling? Remember the olden days when we used to read the ads in the yellow pages before we decided who to call and maybe hire? A phone number is not good enough. If you are looking for a doctor you probably want to know what part of town they are in, someone close to home, or on the bus line.


     7:43 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

    -- Ask, and ye shall receive. --


    Section 4: Voice browsers

    Live LINK
    Expired Domain(this website is for sale)

    In fact w3 should be ashamed of them selves for having so many dead links on that page


     8:18 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

    I didn't see any broken/dead links. I ran TotalValidator on the page, and it came up with 12 WAI (!) errors, but no dead links or HTML errors.


     10:10 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

    The law shouldn't force me to change that, even if I do sell something.

    No one is asking you to change anything.
    The ADA predates your website, so complying with it was simply one more thing on the checklist you were required to address as part of providing a place for public business.
    If you did not do that, you may need to revisit your actions from the beginning.


     10:27 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

    cmarshall: I just tried the same tool:

    Link Errors
    E041 - 5 instance(s): The link could not be tested due to a connection failure. You should test this link manually.

    E403 - 1 instance(s): Forbidden: The remote server denied access to the document for an unknown reason.

    E404 - 8 instance(s): Not Found: The remote server could not find a document at the URL provided. The link may refer to a document that no longer exists, or is pointing to the wrong place.

    is this just impractical?


     10:29 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

    I'll have to check my settings. I thought that it tests links, but maybe not.

    In any case, the fact it suffers WAI errors is even more embarrassing than broken links.


     10:43 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

    i hear you


     1:24 am on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

    In fact w3 should be ashamed of them selves for having so many dead links on that page.

    Ah, that page is marked [Out of Date] which is the W3's way of saying that the page is no longer being maintained.

    This page was last updated 18 October 2005, and it is currently out of date. It may be updated in the future.

    The W3 have thousands of pages that are [Out of Date].

    In any case, the fact it suffers WAI errors is even more embarrassing than broken links.

    I hate to say it, they are not perfect. I've found many pages that don't validate. But, the errors are very minor and in many cases a "simple oversight" by the most recent author. If I find any of those, I'll usually report them to the author.

    We should be testing the Target.com site and not the W3. Their home page weighs in at...

    Failed validation, 763 Errors

    Yikes! Target.com doesn't care about its visitors. If it did, it surely wouldn't be throwing this bag of bricks on each visitor...

    HTML 2 190,397
    CSS 3 20,273
    Scripts 8 43,145
    Images 35 273,961
    CSS Images 163 319,447
    Other 7 0
    Total 218 847,223

    847k of information for one page (500k+ of images). 119 seconds to load on 56k. Over 500 links on one page. How does that sound on a Screen Reader?


     1:51 am on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

    Oh, heck. I don't need to go to their site to have an issue with Target. Ever notice how their Returns Department is very good? And has LONG lines?

    This is because they get a LOT of returns.

    Know where that broken mixer you returned is going?

    Right back on the shelf.

    If the next punter has a problem with it, they'll fix it.

    I suspect all big box stores have a "back to the shelf" policy. It's happened to me with BB, CC and a chain they used to have in this area that is no longer in business.

    But you're right. I never pay attention to the WAI site. The only reason I did was because it was pointed out.

    I like all my sites to validate 5 by 5 with TV turned up to 11.


     3:49 pm on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

    Well, I have to commend Target.com for making the changes that it has already. It has been a while since I did a full blown review on one of their product pages and they've made some considerable improvements. They've also provided an 800 number for those with impairments which may prevent them from ordering online.

    Also, the first link presented on every page (via a Screen Reader) refers to Technical Information about the site and that is where the 800 number appears...

    Assistive Technology Users
    Target strives to provide the best guest experience for all visitors to our web sites. We are committed to continuing to find ways to enhance and improve the experience for all guests, including those using assistive technologies. For help regarding online orders, shopping and returns, please call 1.800.591.3869.

    Its nice to see that Target.com is putting in the extra effort to assist those with special needs. Now, if you would have done this a couple of years ago.

    Also, the first link presented on every page (via a Screen Reader) refers to Technical Information.

    Can you believe that a user with a Screen Reader gets to load 500+ links for each page in the shopping experience? Man, that has to be a poorly performing experience for someone without sight who is relying on Screen Reader software to find something.

    This 57 message thread spans 2 pages: < < 57 ( 1 [2]
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