Fwd: [SEC508] FW: Legal Precedent Set for Web Accessibility

Begin forwarded message:

From: Larry Goldberg <larry_goldberg@wgbh.org>
Date: September 8, 2006 9:13:44 AM EDT
To: Section 508 <sec508@trace.wisc.edu>
Subject: Re: [SEC508] FW: Legal Precedent Set for Web Accessibility

This is far from a done deal and not yet a far-reaching precedent - the
court rejected the motion to dismiss on some counts, but ruled in
favor of
Target on others. The case has to still proceed and is subject to
of course.

For instance, note this part of the ruling:
"However, she [the judge] dismissed parts of the suit dealing with Web
information and services unconnected with the company's brick-and-mortar

See a another take on the ruling here:


Blind patrons' lawsuit against target proceeds
By Josh Richman, STAFF WRITER

A lawsuit claiming retail giant Target Corp. discriminates against the
blind with an inaccessible Web site can go forward in part, a federal
judge in San Francisco ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel wrote the plaintiffs  the
National Federation of the Blind, its California affiliate and a blind
University of California, Berkeley student  can proceed with claims
that Target.com's inaccessibility to the blind "impedes the full and
equal enjoyment of goods and services offered in Target stores."
However, she dismissed parts of the suit dealing with Web information
and services unconnected with the company's brick-and-mortar stores.

Minneapolis-based Target issued a statement Thursday saying it was
disappointed Patel didn't dismiss the case entirely, but was pleased
she didn't grant the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction forcing the
company to make its site readily accessible to and usable by blind
people using screen-access software within 90 days.

"We believe our Web site complies with all applicable laws and are
committed to vigorously defending this case," the company said. "We
will continue to implement technology that increases the usability of
our Web site for all our guests, including those with disabilities."

Target had sought to have the case dismissed before trial, arguing the
federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the state's Unruh Civil
Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act don't apply because Target.com
isn't a
physical space.

But Patel found that "(t)o limit the ADA to discrimination in the
provision of services occurring on the premises of a public
accommodation would contradict the plain language of the statute." The
law's purpose "is broader than mere physical access  seeking to bar
actions or omissions which impair a disabled person's 'full enjoyment'
of services or goods," she wrote.

The plaintiffs, represented by firms including Berkeley-based
Disability Rights Advocates, sued in February in Alameda County
Superior Court; Target had the case removed to federal court in March.

The suit notes Target's site lacks "compliant alt-text," an invisible
code embedded beneath images so screen-reading software can detect and
vocalize an image's description to blind computer users. Also, the site
requires use of a mouse to finish transactions, so blind people can't
go it alone.

Target has more than 1,300 stores in 47 states including more than 200
in California, and reported $52.6 billion in revenues in 2005.

Mark D. Urban wrote:

> All,
> This is an enormous ruling for commercial accessibility.    
> Basically, the
> court said that "clicks" as well as "bricks", are covered by the   
> 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."
> Regards,
> -Mark D. Urban
> 919-395-8513 (cell)
> Chair, North Carolina Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with
> Disabilities
> Keep up with the latest in worldwide accessibility at
> (http://www.icdri.org/)
> 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
> websites."
>     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
> Related links:
> http://www.target.com
> http://www.dralegal.org
> http://www.browngold.com
> http://www.schneiderwallace.com
> http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?  
> ACCT=ind_focus.story&STORY=/www
> /story/09-07-2006/0004428698&EDATE=THU+Sep+07+2006,+02:31+PM
> --
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Received on Friday, 8 September 2006 17:42:18 UTC