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FW: Legal Precedent Set for Web Accessibility

From: Mark D. Urban <docurban@nc.rr.com>
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2006 08:33:48 -0400
To: "'EOWG'" <w3c-wai-eo@w3.org>
This is an enormous ruling for US commercial accessibility.  Basically, the
court said that "clicks" as well as "bricks", are covered by the US ADA.  E-
commerce is now a "place of public accommodation".  
The key legal issue is summed up by this snip:
"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 Website, must be accessible to
persons with disabilities."
-Mark D. Urban 
919-395-8513 (cell)
Chair, North Carolina Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with
Keep up with the latest in worldwide accessibility at
PR Newswire
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Legal Precedent Set for Web Accessibility
By SOURCE National Federation of the Blind
Federal Judge Sustains Discrimination Claims Against Target; Precedent
Establishes That Retailers Must Make Their Websites Accessible to the Blind
Under the ADA
    BERKELEY, Calif., Sept. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- A federal district court
judge ruled yesterday that a retailer may be sued if its website is
inaccessible to the blind. The ruling was issued in a case brought by the
National Federation of the Blind against Target Corp. (Northern District of
California Case No. C 06-01802 MHP) The suit charges that Target's website
( http://www.target.com ) is inaccessible to the blind, and therefore
violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the California Unruh
Civil Rights Act, and the California Disabled Persons Act. 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.
    The suit, NFB v. Target, was filed as a class action on behalf of all
blind Americans who are being denied access to target.com. The named
plaintiffs are the NFB, the NFB of California, and a blind college student,
Bruce "BJ" Sexton.
    The plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates (
http://www.dralegal.org ), a Berkeley-based non-profit law firm that
specializes in high-impact cases on behalf of people with disabilities;
Brown, Goldstein & Levy ( http://www.browngold.com ), a leading civil
rights law firm in Baltimore, Maryland; and Schneider & Wallace (
http://www.schneiderwallace.com ), a national plaintiff's class action and
civil rights law firm based in San Francisco, CA.
    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.
    "This ruling is a great victory for blind people throughout the
country," said NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer. "We are pleased that the
court recognized that the blind are entitled to equal access to retail
    Dr. Maurer explained that blind persons access websites by using
keyboards in conjunction with screen-reading software, which vocalizes
visual information on a computer screen.
    Target's website contains significant access barriers that prevent
blind customers from browsing among and purchasing products online, as well
as from finding important corporate information such as employment
opportunities, investor news, and company policies.
    The plaintiffs charge that target.com fails to meet the minimum
standard of web accessibility. It lacks compliant alt-text, an invisible
code embedded beneath graphic images that allows screen readers to detect
and vocalize a description of the image to a blind computer user. It also
contains inaccessible image maps and other graphical features, preventing
blind users from navigating and making use of all of the functions of the
website. And because the website requires the use of a mouse to complete a
transaction, blind Target customers are unable to make purchases on
target.com independently.
    The plaintiffs originally filed the complaint in Alameda superior court
on February 7, 2006. The case was removed to federal district court and
assigned to Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. Target responded to the suit by
filing a motion to dismiss the case, which argued in part that no civil
rights laws apply to the Internet.
    "We tried to convince Target that it should do the right thing and make
its website accessible through negotiations," said Dr. Maurer. "It is
unfortunate that Target took the position that it does not have to take the
rights of the blind into account. The ruling in this case puts Target and
other companies on notice that the blind cannot be treated like second
class citizens on the Internet or in any other sphere."
    Explaining the ramification of the ruling, Mazen M. Basrawi, Equal
Justice Works Fellow at Disability Rights Advocates, noted that: "the court
clarified that the law requires that any place of public accommodation is
required to ensure that it does not discriminate when it uses the internet
as a means to enhance the services it offers at a physical location."
    "I hope that I can soon shop online at Target.com just like anyone
else," said UC Berkeley student BJ Sexton, who is a named plaintiff in the
lawsuit. "I believe that millions of blind people like me can use the
Internet just as easily as do the sighted, if websites are accessible."
    About the National Federation of the Blind
    With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is
the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in
the United States. The NFB improves blind people's lives through advocacy,
education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and
self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and
the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the
National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and
training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.
SOURCE National Federation of the Blind
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Received on Friday, 8 September 2006 12:34:44 UTC

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