Court Denies Target Corp. Request to Dismiss Suit

September 11, 2006

In a landmark federal court decision issued earlier this week, a motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit against Target Corp. was denied, marking what prosecutors called a victory for the visually-impaired community.”This judgment was a victory of an important battle, but not of the overarching war,” said UC Berkeley senior Bruce Sexton, one of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

The judge issued his decision after Target motioned to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed Feb. 7 that claimed that the corporation’s Web site was inaccessible to blind customers.

The suit claimed that the Web site violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.

Target wanted the case dismissed, arguing that only its physical retail locations, not its Web site, are subject to state and federal accessibility laws.

But the judge struck down the motion, saying the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires all commercial locations to be accessible to citizens with disabilities, extends to Web sites as well as physical retail locations.

Many Web pages are designed to be compatible with screen-reading software, which takes visual information from computer screens and reads it out loud, said John Pare, who is the director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind.

Such sites also allow users to use keyboard shortcuts instead of relying on a mouse, he said.

“Target didn’t have these shortcuts installed in their own Web site,” Pare said.

Representatives from Target could not be reached for comment.

The ruling could hopefully spur more companies to adapt their Web sites to comply with federal and state accesibility laws, said Daniel Goldstein, a partner in the civil rights law firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, one of the prosecuting firms in the suit.

While a final ruling has yet to be issued, disability-rights advocates said this is an important setback for Target and they are cautiously optimistic.

“This is the first step,” Pare said, “but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

“This judgment was a victory of an important battle, but not of the overarching war,” said UC Berkeley senior Bruce Sexton, one of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

In an unprecedented decision for disability rights advocates, a federal district court judge ruled Tuesday that retail company Web sites must be accessible to the blind.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 7 against Target Corp., claims

the Web site’s inaccessibility violates the

This technology is crucial for blind individuals, said Daniel Goldstein of

civil rights law firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, since they cannot drive and need to do much of their shopping and other business online.

And while most sites are software compatible, said Goldstein, there’s a difference between acessibility and usability. While most sites are at least somewhat accessible, he said, “the number of both accessible and usable Web sites are … but still very few.”

Goldstein said the changing face of the high-tech industry has furthered the quality of life for the blind, it has also left other aspects behind. “One might have expected new tech to be liberating, and it has been … but now the thermostat is now digital, the washer is now digital,” he said.

It is when companies have to modify such existing infrastructure to make them accessible that compliance with state and federal laws becomes expensive and possibly unappealing.

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