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|Blind Student Sues Site Owner Claiming Civil-Rights Violations Over Alt Text|
Suit charges retailer's Web site cannot be used by the sightless
"...Target's site lacks "alt-text," an invisible code embedded beneath a graphic on the Web site that a screen reader could use to provide a description of the image to a blind person, the suit said."
"...A blind person cannot make a purchase independently on target.com."
what if one puts the wrong alt text, and a blind person buys the wrong thing relying on it? Not trying to be funny, but it can happen.
As the internet gets bigger and faster more things are possible. Dealing with accessibilty is 2006 should be no worse than dealing with slow computers and dial-up in 2000.
Cars were around for 50 years before automatic transmissions were invented and those idiots in the auto industry still haven't built a car that blind people can drive.
|Small businesses, on the other hand, tend to have lean, smartly programmed, easily spiderable sites. |
Yep - no Marketing department or "designers" over-salting the soup.
|Therefore, i'm speculating that even if a very small percentage of their customers used this, it would still likely outweigh the costs. The bigger implications lie for small businesses which may only serve several thousand people--with only one or two being blind. The costs wouldn't be spread out well. |
But wait, there is something wrong with that statement. The costs to make a website accessible are minimal. In fact, if the designers and developers were following the guidelines in the first place, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
In Target's instance, the site is dynamic. A few included variables here, one there, one over here and viola, you have a site that passes at least WAI-A status which is a basic level of accessbility. It's like comparing HTML Transitional to HTML Strict. AAA sites are hard to find these days. Even AA. And, those who advertise their status as A, AA or even AAA, may not be passing all of the accessibility guidelines. The reports leave too much room for interpretation of the guidelines. And, the tools used to determine the status of pages may not be 100% accurate, most are though.
BTW, here's what a Blind person may get to visualize using their tools when visiting a page that might appeal to them as a buyer. This is a page for Home Audio...
|Alt Text:'Apple iPod nano Lanyard Headphones - MA093G/A' |
Apple iPod nano Lanyard Headphones - MA093G/A
Sign-in for 1-Click
Usually ships within 1 to 2 days.
I've of course trimmed out a lot of fat, but what you see above is what a Blind person may see. This is extracted from the primary area where one would need to start the process of ordering. And, we're only referring to the act of placing an order. There are a whole bunch of other "cool" features that are totally inaccessible. A few title attributes, alt attributes and maybe some text instead of an image would solve many of their problems.
Do you as a Sighted person see any problems with the above? If so, just think what someone with disabilities in that area may be experiencing. :(
|But wait, there is something wrong with that statement. The costs to make a website accessible are minimal. |
Say it again, PR--no one here ever seems to believe it when I say stuff like that...
>> The internet is unregulated
Really? So gambling is legal as long as you do it over the Internet? Phishing is legal? Distributing child pornography on the Internet? Spamming? DOS attacks?
While one can argue that anything done on the Internet can be difficult to regulate, it's certainly not true that "the Internet is unregulated."
I think you're overlooking the simple fact that accessibility is a very relative term. This person is suing the retailer because it can't be used for those who are blind. What can be done to make it used by the blind? If we put descriptions in the alt tag, should the descriptions contain a description of the image (a shiny red car is shown here driving down a snowy mountain)? The message being conveyed in the image is likely far different from the existing product descriptions. To translate each image and its literal message could be expensive. But perhaps this student is only asking for the product description. In any case, if this student wins, we could continue to stretch accessbility to the point where its expensive. This is where I argue that for target and such sites it has less of an implication then, say, webmasterworld.
At first it may seem simple to plug in something into a CMS (as most major sites like target probably use) but somehow I get the feeling that accessbility is to loosely defined and that can prove quite problematic in the future. That's all i'm saying.
Arrrggghhh! Can you believe this?
Failed validation, 378 errors
That one page, that is generated from a dynamic template has 378 errors. That is totally uncalled for. Many are accessibility errors too. No wonder why they are being sued.
The list of errors generated are so basic in nature that a one or two hour session cleaning up the templates would probably correct 80% of their issues.
Then they've got some dynamic issues to deal with. Common ones that can easily be addressed.
Once they clean up all those basic errors, then they can move on to addressing WAI-A status which shouldn't be too difficult. They just are not using the elements that are available to them to make the site accessible. It comes down to a lack of knowledge in writing basic HTML. They are all caught up in the dynamics of it, the visual. They've failed to address what is holding the visual together.
I can just imagine a consultation with their developers...
Me: See this one page? It has 378 errors. 140 of those are due to missing alt attributes.
Them: So what? Who the heck cares about an alt attribute?
Me: The people who are suing you.
Them: Okay, so what's next?
Me: Let's just address one issue at a time. I've worked with your type before and I don't want to give you too many things to do at once.
I'm just kidding with that last statement. But, I've heard the discussions, I've even read them over the years, many could care less about validation and/or accessibility. But, guess what? I can hear the wake up calls miles away. Many are scrambling right now and are frantically adding alt attributes and title attributes right as I type this message. Google's next major indexing is going to show a spike in the use of the alt attribute and it will get filtered out of the algo. :(
|Advocates for the blind said the lawsuit is a shot across the bow for retailers, newspapers and others who have Web sites the blind cannot use. They chose Target because of its popularity and because of a large number of complaints by blind patrons. |
If you start getting complaints about the accessibility of your site(s): Fix them. This is where Target is falling down: they clearly have a 'large number' of sight-impaired patrons and they clearly have been receiving complaints and they clearly have not acted to remedy the situation.
They are not a niche market ... they are not a hunting rifle shop that gets few blind visitors (hopefully gets NO blind visitors ...) Target is discriminating against a 'large' number of their potential customers and they just didn't care. Maybe now they'll make the time to care.
The best defense is a good offense. Don't be lazy, do the accessibility tasks. It's really not hard and you'll be back in the coffee shop with your buddies in no time.
I disagree with this lawsuit.
Although I believe that large websites, or ALL websites, should be accessible by everyone, the lawsuit is uncalled for.
Many people cannot go online to purchase items. Inner city folk, or folk from the country side do not have bank accounts or credit cards. How do you expect them to pay for items online? Should they sue as well?
The issue is not whether they are ABLE to get online, it is that they ARE online and they ARE shopping and they DO have credit cards and sites like Target's are INTENTIONALLY saving themselves money by NOT addressing this special needs group.
Just like wheelchair ramps. And seeing-eye dogs in restaurants.
It's very hard to argue this as it has already been decided by our legal system that accommodations MUST be made for certain classes of people. It's not an option anywhere except for the Internet, at this point. This lawsuit will determine whether or not the same standards will apply.
The legal points of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [usdoj.gov] have been well-established, specifically Part 36 - Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accomodations and in Commercial Facilities.
THIS lawsuit seeks to equate an online portal with the brick-and-mortar business, and, if it is determined to be so, to compel adherance to existing law.
Surely nobody would argue that all Target STORES are not bound by the ADA? And if this suit is successful, it will have determined that the Target website(s) are extensions of the STORE, and so must adhere to the same laws those physical presences are bound by.
Maybe websites should have "acessibility certificates" similar to an SSL if they choose to do business with impaired users. If they don't have one, the user is warned. Caveat Emptor has always been the best advice.
Let those sites that want to do business with impaired users have all their business .. which in turn might tend to support the extra costs of compliance.
Keep the lawyers away from cyberspace .. I don't need any more regs in my life.
" .. and those idiots in the auto industry still haven't built a car that blind people can drive."
Sure they have! Put a blind person in *your* car, help them locate the shift lever and gas pedal ..
.. then stand in front of the car and shout instructions.
"I am all for making sites ...[edited] ... W3C compatible, but geez!"
I'm not! I have every right to wallow in my own incompetence.
What this really comes down to is the age old issue with the internet... Sure, you can make rules and regulations, but how on earth do you enforce them?
ADA issues kind of clear themselves up in that it takes a fair bit of money to build a building or to have employees. It creates a certain level to contend with in the first place.
But what do you do when an 8 year old can run an ecommerce site (in the news today here in Cleveland) or you can literally throw an ecommerce site up with about 2 days worth of work and a $10 piece of software & $7 in hosting (I didn't say t would be a good ecommerce site)? Or how about those LLCs that can just fold overnight and reappear the next day as new business? The cost to just monitor sites and check out complaints would be astronomical.
I knew this would happen, with some major company being sued over web accessibilty. And I do think that in theory they should be forced to make a certain level of effort to be accessible. The problem comes in when you look at the fact that the only people (companies) that will have to do so are the ones who are big enough to warrent attention. And when it comes to laws, that not fair, nor is it right.
With B&M ADA, The Big & Small convience store a block from my house has to follow the same rules as the Target store that is a block in the other direction. It's not hard to enforce. Buildings don't move. Online, Target and other large companies would have to follow the laws (and pay the costs) because they were big enough to find while a thousand little shops could ignore them because its more of a hassle to enforce the laws than to ignore them.
I know everyone likes to root for little guys but laws should apply to everyone and if the government can't or won't apply the laws to everyone, or even come close to trying, they shouldn't make laws regulating those things.
Its slightly off topic, but the drive-through ATM machines in my area have braille keys.
Think about that.
My bank only has a drive-up ATM - when I don't have my car, I walk up to it - if I was blind, I'd use the braille. If I had a blind passenger in my car, they'd use it. A couple of people used examples of blind people not buying certain things (like a rifle), but remember, blind people buy gifts, too.
Also, in regards to the wheelchair accessible ramps - not all places have these. Big businesses do, but many smaller businesses don't. Maybe there's some provision in the law that says they don't have to? Like, in NY (at least in the city before the statewide smoking ban went into effect), a privately owned family restaurant could still have a smoking section.
The provision is based on the size of the establishment. If you want to get certified over a certain occupancy then you need to start adding certain things. This is the same reason why certain places can vary on whether they have bathrooms and other types of things (# of handicap parking spots etc.,_
>sites like Target's are INTENTIONALLY saving themselves money by NOT addressing this special needs group.
um, I dont think so. They are costing themselves sales, which is what they are online to do. How stupid is this discussion when we try and defend target for what? For not making it easy to buy something on their website. They should be sued just for being so damned stupid!
P1R, xcellent posts, btw.
If you think this will stop with target, think twice. ADA lawyers make ambulance chasers look benevolent.
I think what's important it is that regardless of the American Disability Act, the Web Accesibility Guideline is just that. A GUIDELINE.
It is neither correct, or fact, or law.
Even if you implement alt tags it doesn't necessarily leave the site easily readible. CSS can easily change the layout of a site and hide text or move text around.
Until there is a clear, easy way for pages to be accessible to the blind and becomes a STANDARD, I don't see how you can sue someone for not adhering strictly to a guidline that is not always followed, and that I would consider "new technology".
>> I think what's important it is that regardless of the American Disability Act, the Web Accesibility Guideline is just that. A GUIDELINE.
The court will decide that. The internet wasn't popular back then, so the courts will decide whether the LAW applies to this case or not.
|what you see above is what a Blind person may see |
Does not compute ;)
|How can this even go to court! What a joke for real.- The whole case is daft. |
The American litigation culture. (Well that's what it looks like to we Brits).
Not only to Brits...
(My wife is very much into Ally McBeal - I got her a 6-DVD-Set for Christmas and she just finshed watching it. I couldn't help but watching an episode or two, and even though I know it's drama and satire, it gives a creepy insight into US-American litigation...)
It's really quaint the way Americans squabble in courts, but that is beside the point here.
It is not quaint, and is usually illegal, to discriminate against people on the basis of their ability.
Making a website accessible is a part of the price you pay to be part of the Internet economy. It is not an option. And it is a very cheap price -- accessibility may take a whole extra couple of hours at the design stage.
Owners of physical buildings that pre-date disability discrimination legistalation may have some wriggle room --if you opened a restaurant in 1950 atop of a decommissioned lighthouse, the chances are you do not need to have a wheelchair ramp installed -- it would be too costly to retrofit, and the law is reasonable on that point [though check the law in your area].
But that is not true for new buildings.
Pretty much every single website everywhere is the equivalent of a new building: the law existed before the website, so the website owner has no excuse (including ignorance) for disregarding it.
|Also, in regards to the wheelchair accessible ramps - not all places have these. Big businesses do, but many smaller businesses don't. |
That has to do with the time the building was built or remodeled. ALL commerical/public buildings need to conform to the ADA guidlines to get a permit. I once did the drawings for a 8x15 addition to a mom and pop gift shop. It cost more for the ramp than for the addition. There are times and this would probably apply more to small businesses (due to size of building/property) where it is impossible to make a portion of the building to meet the guidlines when remodeling an existing building. But this is rare and needs to be approved by local officials.
|I think what's important it is that regardless of the American Disability Act, the Web Accesibility Guideline is just that. A GUIDELINE. |
The American Disability Act Accesiblilty Guidlines for buildings is also only a guidline but you will not get a building permit if your building is not designed to meet those guidlines.
I guess the way to think of it is compliance to the ADA will be judged based on the guidlines being met. With Buildings it is much easier to regulate since there was already a system inplace for plans to be reviews. I am not sure how you could regulate the web but I am guessing it would be similiar to copyright and the DMCA. It could end up that someone will send an ADA notice to your hosting company and they will take down the site untill your comply.
My only question is _why_ is this person suing Target? Why not just move on to another store? Why are they so intent on shopping there?
Makes me think that there is some personal vendetta involved, which is just giving the whole disabled community a bad rep.
To me, it just appears petty and ridiculous - for example (although I'm not disabled), I can't shop at a lot of clothes shops because of my size. Do I sue them for not catering to my needs? No - I go somewhere else.
There is a thing called CHOICE, and this guy appears to have forgotten that in favor of publicity, it seems - no doubt encouraged by the slimy lawyers who probably already have one hand in Target's pocket.
As someone else said earlier, to suggest Target knowingly discriminated is nonesense - their web developers were just lazy and incompetent, and there's no law against that.
Any decent legal system would laugh this case straight out of the door.
Oh, wait a minute, this is the USA - almost forgot for a second...
|Makes me think that there is some personal vendetta involved, which is just giving the whole disabled community a bad rep. |
Actually I believe the claim states that disabled persons have been alerting Target to the problems for some time now. It all came to a head not long ago, hence the lawsuit. You can only avoid the inevitable for so long. ;)
If that's the case, then Target are just being stupid.
How much would it cost them to modify their site anyway? Surely not that much in the grand scheme of things.
Unless of course, the plaintiff's change requirements are unreasonable.
You know, this has become a rather interesting story for me. I enjoy taking a page and/or site and picking it apart pixel by pixel.
On what looks like to be a fairly simple order page, there are 412 images present. They total 84.76k. Most of the images are spacer gifs, many 1x1. All of those are coming in from a secondary domain (amazon.com). The page weighs in at a total of 112k.
I don't quite understand the thinking behind their site design and actual structure. I mean, they have a spacer gif in just about every single td element on the page. I'm familiar with the pesky little buggers when slicing and dicing. I'm going to assume that someone had their slice guides set to 1 pixel increments and they had about 80-100 slices being exported. Yikes!
And on top of that, they've taken simple characters like > and >> and have them as images. Those things appear all over the place.
Now, get this, there are 96 HTTP Requests for this one page that contains one item. 96! I've run reports on many pages over the years and I'll have to say I can't recall seeing a number that high for HTTP Requests. If you view the source of this page, their HTML starts at line 128. At first I thought it was the "hide your html" trick by forcing everything down below the fold. Then I realized, wait, they have 96 HTTP Requests, that would account for their HTML starting at line 128. ;)
Why all the stats? Well, if the Plaintiff's attorney is Internet savvy, they will assemble all of the above data and much more. I could fill this topic with reports for days. From a technical viewpoint, I'll let the above numbers speak for themselves. Everything above has a direct influence on the accessbility of their site. A good portion of the accessbility issues have to do with images and scripts. BTW, there are 32 script blocks on this one page. Some of them I believe responsible for the inaccessibility of the ordering function.
They are packing way too much data on a single page. The typical (not impaired) online shopper would probably never know what was going on. But, start using the assistive technologies that are available for those with disabilities and you can really get a feel for what this lawsuit is about. You cannot place an order.
>sites like Target's are INTENTIONALLY saving themselves money by NOT addressing this special needs group.
Kirby, I agree that it's certainly not a lot of money ... probably less than they are losing in sales. But to not have ensured that the developers they contracted with were (a) capable of including accessibility programming and (b) charged with the responsibility of making certain the site meets the accessibility guidelines speaks volumes about their budget priorities.
|Charged with the responsibility of making certain the site meets the accessibility guidelines speaks volumes about their budget priorities. |
I wouldn't really blame it on budget. The cost factor is a moot point as it is minimal. There actually is no cost if the site were to have been following "just the basics" on HTML.
We have to keep in mind that accessibility and validation are new to quite a few people. My understanding is that they don't really teach you this stuff when you are being licensed in a certain programming language. It's all about building things that work, most could care less about all the other stuff that goes into it.
This is why it takes a "team" of qualified professionals to assemble and maintain a site of this magnatude. As big as Target is, they should have various teams in place to maintain the site. Not everyone is going to know everything and communication is key.
Their main problem now is what to do. The depth of their current site along with the technology behind it, may impede their progress in making the site accessible. They may have to start "almost" from scratch. First thing that needs to go is the design structure, it is antiquated (I'm referring strictly to the actual tabled structure of the site).
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