We don’t often see cases that involve both class action lawsuits and virtual accessibility issues. However, Target settled a noteworthy case with the National Federation of the Blind in 2008 regarding issues with a website that was inaccessible to blind consumers. This shines a light onto how the blind use the Internet and makes it makes clear to corporate giants and small businesses alike the importance of using proper web design to ensure universal accessibility.
Filed in 2006, the class action lawsuit claimed that Target.com contained hundreds if not thousands of access barriers for the blind, making it virtually unusable by this segment of the population. Approximately 1.3 million people in the United States, or 0.3% of the population, are blind, making them an important market segment for corporate entities. In the settlement, the retail giant agreed to establish a $6 million fund to settle claims and promised to change its website to become fully blind-accessible.
One of the original named plaintiffs, Bruce Sexton, expressed his frustration with the lack of alt-text for images on the Target.com website. Screen-reading software used by the blind uses this alt-text tag to vocalize descriptions of images. His claim, expressed legally through the National Federation of the Blind lawsuit, was that Target.com violated both federal and state laws entitling disabled individuals equal access to business services.
The settlement was filed in Northern California and stipulated that blind users of Target.com be able to “acquire the same information” available to sighted guests and “engage in the same transactions” that sighted guests could. It stipulated that these actions be made available “with substantially equivalent ease of use.” Fayetteville disability lawyers would doubtlessly be pleased with such terms, which go a long way toward creating a more user-friendly online experience for blind individuals.
In a statement, Sexton commended Target for its agreement to abide by the settlement and for its efforts in improving accessibility. He said that it “marks a new chapter” for web accessibility, and expressed his hopes that other businesses offering services and products over the Internet might “follow Target’s example.”