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Blind shoppers win OK to sue Target

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http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-fi-ta...1&cset=true

 

From Bloomberg News

October 3, 2007

 

 

Target Corp., the second-largest U.S. discount store chain, lost a bid Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit claiming the company's website wasn't accessible to the blind.

 

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco rejected Target's request to dismiss the case. She also certified the case as a class action, ruling that all legally blind people in the U.S. who have been denied access to services at Target stores because of deficiencies in the company's website can join the suit.

 

Target has failed to use "technologically simple and not economically prohibitive" code embedded in websites allowing the blind to use software that vocalizes the content, according to court filings by the National Federation of the Blind.

 

The group filed the suit on behalf of Bruce Sexton, a UC Berkeley student who claimed that he couldn't access some features of Target.com. "It was just gibberish for blind users trying to use the website," said Larry Paradis, a lawyer for the group.

 

"Target has argued that no law -- neither the Americans with Disabilities Act nor state law -- could require it to make its website accessible to the blind," Paradis said. "Today's decision completely rejects Target's argument."

 

Target spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter said the company would seek a review of the certification of the suit as a class action. Target executives are confident the company will win the suit, she said.

 

"Target is committed to serving all of our guests, and we believe that our website is fully accessible and complies with all applicable laws," Brookter said.

 

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http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c...H7D1.DTL&hw

 

Blind people access Web sites using keyboards and screen-reading software that vocalizes the information others see on a computer screen. But Target's site lacks "alt-text," an invisible code embedded beneath images on the Web site that screen-reading software uses to provide descriptions to the blind, the suit said.

 

The Web site also has inaccessible image maps, the suit said. Image maps, when clicked on by sighted users, allow the patron to jump to other parts of the Web site. Without image maps, visitors to www.target.com must use a mouse to complete transactions -- preventing blind patrons from surfing the site or making online purchases, the suit said.

 

Some companies, like Wells Fargo & Co., have Web sites accessible to the blind, said Mazen Basrawi, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates of Berkeley, which represents the plaintiffs.

 

In 2003, Wells Fargo was the first financial institution to have its Web site certified by Maurer's group, bank spokesman Chris Hammond said.

 

Basrawi said the plaintiffs began negotiating with Target after writing to the retailer in May 2005. But talks broke down last month, and the company, which the attorney described as "one of the biggest offenders," declined to modify its Web site.

 

"Blind people have complained about (Target's Web site) in particular," Basrawi said. "That one's gotten a lot of complaints, especially because it's completely unusable. A blind person cannot make a purchase independently on target.com."

 

Target has 1,400 stores in 47 states, including 205 in California, and reported $46 billion in revenue in 2004.

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