Blind Hit Target with Lawsuit

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A federal district court judge ruled last week that a retailer can be sued if its Web site is inaccessible to the blind.

The ruling was issued Sept. 6 and allows the case brought by the National Federation of the Blind against Minneapolis, MN-based Target Corp to move forward.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, charged that Target's Web site ( www.target.com) is inaccessible to the blind, and therefore violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, 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 site accessible, the NFB said. The court denied Target's motion to dismiss and held that the federal and state civil rights laws do apply to Web sites like www.target.com. The court 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. The court did deny the NFB's request for a preliminary injunction against Target.

The lawsuit, NFB vs. Target, was filed as a class action on behalf of all blind Americans who are being denied access to www.target.com. The named plaintiffs are the NFB, the NFB of California and a blind college student, Bruce "BJ" Sexton.

The plaintiffs charge that target.com fails to meet the minimum standard of Web accessibility.

For example, the lawsuit said 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 Web site. And, because the Web site requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind Target customers are unable to make purchases on target.com independently.

Target did not return a call seeking comment but said in a statement it would continue fighting the lawsuit.

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