Target Settles Accessibility Lawsuit for $6 Million

Matthew Magain

Target LogoTarget yesterday settled its class action lawsuit with the National Federation of the Blind (a suit that was originally launched back in early 2006). In the settlement, Target agreed to pay damages of up to $6 million to the NFB, which would then be distributed to individuals affected by the fact that the target.com web site was inaccessible.

I had to chuckle at the following part of the announcement:

Bruce Sexton, Jr., a named plaintiff in the case from the beginning, added: “This settlement marks a new chapter in making Web sites accessible to the blind. I commend Target for committing to being a leader in online accessibility.”

The very fact that this lawsuit existed in the first place is reason enough to conclude that Target is far from “a leader in online accessibility.” Sexton expended considerable energy lobbying Target to add basic accessibility features to their web site, including adding alt text to their images, but they refused to entertain the idea that they might be obligated to do so.

The announcement that Target have finally agreed that they are obligated to accommodated blind visitors is basically a good one, despite concerns that visitors with other disabilities might not be taken into consideration, or that the settlement is too low a figure. The fact is that this settlement puts accessibility on the agenda for corporations who might otherwise think that ignoring disabled visitors to their web site is acceptable.

Paying out $6 million to visitors who might sue Target because they have low vision, or cannot use a mouse, is not something that Target will want to go through again. The precedent has been set now; the next time there’s a problem with the accessibility of target.com and someone complains, I’m betting Target will be listening.

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  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    I think this is outrageous. No-one has a “right” to use any website. It is also an attack on the web. Can I go into a newsagent and get a large-print edition of a newspaper? You bet I can’t. Can I go into a book store and see a large print edition of the bestseller sitting next to the standard edition? Or maybe an audio tape? No chance. Yet it’s us suckers online that are forced to provide accessible content.

    Don’t get me wrong, I value deaf and blind visitors as much as the next. I make my sites with basic HTML and few graphics so they can be read in text readers and the like, but I am self-employed and can only do so much myself. If I had to make everything fully accessible I wouldn’t have time to make a living and might as well pack up.

    It’s a great injustice on us.

  • colorbycolor

    Absolutely disgusting. This sets an awful precedent across the board. Visiting a web site is not any one’s right-and making sure that you can is not any one’s responsibility. I’m all for the rights of the disabled but this is by far the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. If you can not access a site the way that you’d like, you go to another one. The penalty to the site owner is lost sales and if they lose enough they may change their site but implying that by having a web site they somehow OWE each and every person the ability to access it is irresponsible and dangerous as I can imagine a storm of similar law suits coming. It is time the government steps back and lets people run their freaking businesses. And guess what? If they screw it up they go out of business-not go to court. And $6 million in damages???? Who in the hell has been SO damaged by not being able to view a Target web site that they have to be compensated? There are like 1,000 other places to get the same stuff-which, again, is not necessarily YOUR RIGHT to obtain. I bet he never even shopped at Target.

  • ChipPanFire

    Excellent news. Perhaps now lazy web builders will start taking their responsibilities more seriously now.

    @Charles Sweeney:
    You say you “value deaf and blind visitors as much as the next”. But the next was colorbycolor who seems to think this form of discrimination is okay as well. So I don’t think your disclaimer is too valuable here ;) More usefully, your analogy about buying a large print newspaper is flawed. A more accurate analogy would be a disabled person being prevented from entering a newsagent to buy anything at all. If you don’t think that’s wrong then try replacing the adjective “disabled” with “black” or “female”.

    Accessibility is not too hard unless you were brought up on FrontPage and I would suggest that if any web builder cannot cope with it then they should serioously considere their chosen career.

  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    I don’t buy your argument ChipPanFire. You are suggesting that the emphasis is on letting people into the store over making the products accessible, such as the newsagent in the analogy. There’s an injustice straight away. We on the web are forced to make the store AND the products accessible. Traditional media is not forced in the same way.

    colorbycolor made a very good point. Websites may become accessible for purely commercial reasons. No need for force. The accessible sites get the business that the others lose.

    We should NOT be forced to make our sites in a certain way and there SHOULD be parity with other media. Half my argument would disappear if newspapers and book publishers were forced to publish large-print and audio editions beside the standard editions.

  • ChipPanFire

    But it’s not about access to media per se, it’s about access to goods and services which is why my analogy is more accurate. No one is interested in Target’s website for its own sake – they are interested in being able to shop there.

  • dhtml12345

    This is stupid.

  • buzz27

    Unreal.

    For one thing, making a website accessible is part and parcel of making a website correctly. Its part of good SEO, part of clean maintainable sites, and beeing a good citizen of the web. Good markup is accessible almost by default if you know what you are doing. Making a website accessible is easy unless you are incompetent, in which case you shouldn’t be publishing.

    Secondly, this is not about users having a ‘right’ to use a website. Society has decided that it values non-discrimination of those who have been born with, or have acquired, a disability. To that end, thousands of business have been required to spend millions of dollars making their facilities accessible. It is not just a right for those who are disabled, but *all of us*, who might (and a percentage will) become disabled. This includes temporary disabilities from injuries, which happens to us all. Obviously all barriers can’t be removed, but we should remove those we can. Braille editions of major newspapers is impractical. Accessible websites for the web sites of those newspapers is. That’s why it should be required (whereas the braille should not be).

  • buzz27

    Hi,

    Was my comment deleted? If so, why? I feel my opinion was fairly worded.

  • http://www.1plusdesign.com NRG77

    This is absolutely ridiculous. What is next? Can I go sue Adobe because I read and speak only Spanish and they only make applications in English? For this to be even a case is beyond me. What is the judge thinking? He or she shouldn’t even consider this case to be valid.

    Who governs this type of law? Is it stated on paper that any commercialized website must be fully accessible to all people with disabilities? My respects go out to all these people but this is just too much.

  • Sean

    Oh come on, stop whinging. It’s not that hard to alt text your images or to use semantic mark up.

    It’s not like you haven’t heard of web standards before now, is it?

  • buzz27

    Making a website accessible is part and parcel of making a website correctly. Its part of good SEO, part of clean maintainable sites, and beein a good citizen of the web. Good markup is accessible almost by default if you know what you are doing. Making a website accessible is easy unless you are incompetent, in which case you shouldn’t be publishing.

    Secondly, this is not about users having a ‘right’ to use a website. Society has decided that it values non-discrimination of those who have been born with, or have acquired, a disability. To that end, thousands of business have been required to spend millions of dollars making their facilities accessible. It is not just a right for those who are disabled, but *all of us*, who might (and a percentage will) become disabled. This includes temporary disabilities from injuries, which happens to us all. Obviously all barriers can’t be removed, but we should remove those we can. Braille editions of major newspapers is impractical. Accessible websites for the web sites of those newspapers is.

    “Those people” could easily be you, for a month or for the rest of your life. It’s not about the rights of an abstract group, but of all of us.

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    While I strive for accessibility, I too find this lawsuit ridiculous.

    Ok, say I’m a Japanese clothing retailer, and I chose to build a snazzy Flash site to showcase my products, and help it stand-out from my competitors. Unfortunately, my budget is limited, so I cannot build an HTML equivalent, and all my text is in Japanese.

    Therefore – suddenly I am liable? Because there is no English equivalent or Screen-reader friendly version?

    The only websites that SHOULD BE REQUIRED to be accessible are government websites, and other public service websites. Target wasn’t a public service nor government institution.

  • Charles

    It is completely outrageous. Accessibility has become completely out of control. I live and work in a top digital agency in London (and am American) and can tell you that accessibility is running rampant over the industry, completely bastardizing it and directing much needed funds into resources dedicated to accessibility rather than usability, design, implementation, and promoation. The whole thing is a joke.

  • http://www.andyandjaime.com creole

    I’ll have to chime in here with the fact that this is assinine. The beautiful thing about the internet is that ANY site is available to me. If Target.com wasn’t usable by the plaintiff, then they could have gone elsewhere with NO additional effort.

    Seriously…it’s not like he had to drive to a Target store only to find that they had no signs in braille, then had to drive to another store to get what he wanted. All he had to do was to type in a different URL.

    I do think that this sets a poor precedent for sites because it appears that at any point, any site could be “Target”ed. Yes, making sites accessible doesn’t really take that much effort, but it does take effort.

    Besides…that’s not the point, which is that Target was forced into a corner by a small minority of people.

  • Jay

    I’d have to say one of my greatest pet peeves is that of people feeling they have some sort of a right to decide how someone else runs their business. If not being able to use Target’s site is really such a big deal to someone, they have much bigger problems than that, or their disability.

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    Can I go into a newsagent and get a large-print edition of a newspaper? You bet I can’t.

    This analogy is wrong. You probably can’t get large print editions of some things at target either. The correct analogy would be, for example, steps leading up to the shop that a disabled user can’t use. In the UK, reasonable steps have to be taken to accommodate disabled users in the workplace / public places as well, which is analogous to website access.

    Count yourself lucky you don’t have to use a screen reader to browse the web, or you would be on the other side of the fence, guaranteed.

    Making a site accessible has a very real sales benefit as well – see the legal and general case study on the subject. I’d go as far as to say that by not making your site accessible, you are shooting yourself in the foot and missing out on a lot of potential sales. It’s a pretty bad business decision.

  • Richard Bone

    I’ll have to chime in here with the fact that this is assinine. The beautiful thing about the internet is that ANY site is available to me.

    @creole – Yet that’s just the problem, if major retailers such as Target are not taking accessibility seriously, then just how many sites are truly available to disabled people? Lose access to your eyesight and the web may not seem like such a big place anymore.

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    You say you can go elsewhere.. what if all their competitors were the same? After all, if it wasn’t encouraged and required to some extent, why would anyone bother? Suddenly you’ve run out of options, and can’t just ‘change the url’ and ‘go elsewhere’.

  • http://www.mjswebsolutions.com type0

    All I can say is, “Oh my God”!

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    I think the main issue here is – where do we draw the line exactly?

    People talk about the pathways for disabled people in actual real-life shops. Good example.

    What happens if a shop is too tiny for a person in a wheelchair to enter it? E.g. the shop is stuffed to the hilt? Is the shop suddenly liable because they “failed to make their site accessible to the disabled”?

    What about a movie? Take Wall-E for example: should Pixar be sued because the movie wasn’t accessible to the visually impaired due to lack of narration?

    Again, I’m not against accessibility at all. I couldn’t imagine life without sight. However, I do think that there are certain limitations that, even those who are visually impaired understand, cannot be compromised.

  • orokusaki

    Very wise Charles Sweeney. I couldn’t agree more. That is a very communist thing to do. I do hate Target, so I’m glad it was them it happened to, but none the less, that is an infringement on our rights. I don’t have to, nor will I ever build a website any way that I don’t want to.

  • stupidHater

    this is really stupid………
    how do they choose and select judges over there ……

  • nrg77

    Whether a site is accessible should be a privilege, not a right! What if a site/company has T&C that states “we are not liable for any damages or pain and suffering this site may cause….etc..” Would that have made a difference?

    Don’t get me wrong but I am all for accessibility but to sue a company over it just does not seem fair. People looking for quick money if you ask me.

  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    For those who don’t get it. We are talking about six million bucks for missing alt text.

  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    @buzz27

    Braille editions of major newspapers is impractical.

    That’s an interesting argument…provide for disabled people only where practical.

  • http://www.primalskill.com feketegy

    This is absurd. I bet the judge never browsed the web more than twice…

    With this in mind I can sue any company whose website is broken in IE 6, just because I don’t want to upgrade or switch to another browser…

  • ChipPanFire

    Good idea. Why not try it. Then I suspect you’ll find the diffreence between complaining about an inaccessible website and your uh, shall we say, dubious argument…

    @Charles:
    If you do indeed find accessibility is running rampant over everything else (and I rather doubt it) then perhaps your “top agency” might consider employing someone who actually knows what they’re talking about when it comes to accessible sites? My services are available for a very reasonable £500/day…

  • Kailash Badu

    This is ridiculous.

  • topdown

    Charles Sweeney Says:
    August 30th, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    For those who don’t get it. We are talking about six million bucks for missing alt text.

    I don’t see the need for the price, but if a Web Developer is going to call himself such, then his code should be compliant. This includes the alt and title attributes along with all other standards.

    There are 1000’s of supposed developers and I go to their sites and their code is not only not valid but has syntax layout that is so bad it hurts to read it.

    What it comes down to is if you are a web developer, and that is your job do it right and code with the standards.

  • http://www.cubancrafters.com/index.php Cubancrafters

    Wow, what a bad precedent. It’s like applying the ADA (American Disabilities Act) to the web. If class action attorneys decide to use this as a precedent it can impact every site in the internet. I do not see where any judge made a legal ruling. All I can think is that Target did it to avoid negative publicity from those wih disabilities. This case should have been thrown out by the court before it got to this point.

  • http://www.tdtsolutions.com TDTSolutions

    As I read all of the above posts it just simply makes my stomach turn to see how ignorant everyone is. I’d hate to wish it, but for a week I wish everyone was blind or had color blindness for a week and see how well you get along. Just imagine what life would be like should you not be able to surf the internet, create web pages, shop online.

    @ Cerole
    Seriously…it’s not like he had to drive to a Target store only to find that they had no signs in braille, then had to drive to another store to get what he wanted. All he had to do was to type in a different URL.

    So are you saying that a blind person should “drive” to Target? Are you kidding? Do you realize how much easier it is for someone with an impairment to do their shopping online? They are able to shop and never leave home. No need to trouble someone to drive them to the stores. They get it shipped right to their door. Why is it so hard to understand that if you have an impairment (which a lot of you will someday as old age gets closer to you, your eye will become less efficient over time, therefore putting you at a disabled state..)then they also have the right to information, the ability to surf the web and live as normal lifestyle as possible? Plain ignorance on your part for not seeing that.

    Making a website accessible is not a big task. In the past I’ve created many sites that were inaccessible only because I didn’t know better and pure laziness on my part played a role in it. Would you hire a contractor to build your home if you knew they were going to cut corners and do sloppy work? An accessible site means your doing your job right.

    Why are you all saying.. “Just go to another website to make your purchase?” Bull…What if the products on sale at Target were cheaper than most other places? Screw that… go to another store because your not important because your eyesight isn’t very good.

    I totally agree with the judge. I’m glad Target got nailed for 7 figures. It’s an example to all the big chains that they better start paying attention to their website as an entity. If a building inspector goes to their store and says their roof is leaking and about to cave in.. what do you think would happen? Most likely the store would be shut down and they would be fined and told to fix it. How is the web any different? They are making money on the web and in their store – treat your physical address the same as you would on the web.

    For all of you “small guys” who build inaccessible websites because your lazy or you just don’t know how to do it? Give your head a shake, accessible websites do better with SEO, they put you one step above the competition, they open your demographic to a larger audience, they give you a bullet proof foundation on various browsers and mobile users.

    Accessibility is here to stay, and it will only get more popular. Recognize the trend, adjust your coding practices and move on. I work for the Canadian Government doing web design mainly as an accessiblity agent, and it is a HUGE deal right now. People have the right to information and when you take that right away your infringing on their rights. Don’t tell me as a web designer your rights are being infringed upon – do your job correctly and stop crying over it. You become more marketable when your work is accessible.

  • nrg77

    @TDTsolutions.. I think you are missing the point.

    It’s not that no one cares about accessibility and its not that no one cares about people with disability. It’s the fact that business owners/company has the right to create their website however they choose to. If a customer does not like it, then that is too bad. They are not forced to shop there.

    If a lawsuit of this kind is valid and deemed to be won, then where do we draw the line? Can I say that I am suing because I am colorblind and you did not make the website in colors I can see correctly? Or the color of your website is sensitive to my eyes, please change the color or I will sue you?

    Again, I am not against website accessibility at all in fact all the sites I build are done with accessibility.

  • http://www.duncanmedia.com.au BJ Duncan

    TDTSolutions, mate stand up and take a bow.

    I reckon if you had of issued that statement as the closing argument for the case, the payout figure would be even higher.

    Well done and well said!

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    I don’t have to, nor will I ever build a website any way that I don’t want to.

    Yes you do. It it the law. If you are a builder, you cannot just build a house any way you want – there are building regulations and laws to make them accessible in themselves, and safe. Likewise, there are laws (At least in this country) to make websites accessible.

    I can only hope more and more sites have action taken against them so that all the crappy developers who can’t be bothered to do things properly are forced to either change their ways, or find another industry to work in.

    Unfortunately, the web has a very low barrier for entry – there are no kinds of qualifications you need or anything – which means you get some very shoddy coding out there, as everyone and his dog tries to set up a web development business. I despair when I see the state of some of the results.

  • http://www.HereNextYear.com lerxtjr

    TDTSolutions, I was really just scrolling to the bottom of all of these posts to add something like “GAF! Just another go for the big company with the bucks lawsuit.” But your single post stopped me in my tracks and changed my thinking. Target would’ve been much smarter to invite the blind person in and have a programmer in the room to make a sample page to their spec and learn from it…instead of fight it. Somewhere along the line, Target must have avoided the person instead. If that’s what happened, yes, Target should be ashamed of themselves along with anyone else that neglects its sight-challenged viewers.

  • rundmw

    In defense of my native land of America – which on a wide variety of issues is getting increasingly difficult to do – a few comments.

    The suit was settled, not decided by a judge. So issues of closing arguments and the amount awarded really don’t apply.

    The American Disabilities Act (ADA) does actually establish a legal right to accessibility. Largely intended to apply to ramps and elevators for brick-and-motar businesses, it is a fair question of whether this right extends to the web.

    The judge on the case is required to take this law into account, so we should probably cut her a little slack. Also, as a Federal judge, she was appointed and confirmed by the Congress, so there was no direct election.

    While I agree (as a web developer) with the principle that good web development includes accessibility features, and I am troubled at the notion of the government imposing these principles as legal requirements for sites connected to businesses, I imagine that most Sitepoint readers appreciate the ever-growing centrality of the web to our daily lives. This adds at least some weight to the argument that this right of accessibility should apply to the web, at least to commercial websites.

  • world at war

    Unbelievable read, to think i used to like that company

  • http://www.tdtsolutions.com TDTSolutions

    @nrg77

    Actually, I did not miss the point.

    It’s not that no one cares about accessibility and its not that no one cares about people with disability. It’s the fact that business owners/company has the right to create their website however they choose to.

    From what I’m reading, it seems that there are a lot of people who don’t care to make their sites accessible, how can you argue that when there are 30+ posts on this and over 25 of them or negative? Why is it that people are so inclined to stick to such poor coding practices?

    Business owners should start building their stores so “they” can enjoy it more. If the owner is 4 foot 11, what’s stopping him from making every doorway in the store a 5 foot max? Maybe he exercises a lot and loves to take stairs 2 at a time and has about 4 flights of stairs in his store, why bother putting in an elevator or escalator? Same for the web… you and I can both see it properly… who cares about the hundreds of thousands who cannot. That to me is a poor attitude.

    You do these things as best practice, some of which you are required to do.

    Which brings me to my next point I think I already made prior….

    Why would you treat your physical store front any different from your website? Money is made from both and all sorts of people go through your doors / home page.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m almost certain it is required to have “Handicap” parking in every parking lot? And of course it is located close to the front door. Screw that… store owners… put a designated sign up and say staff parking only. Cmon people, stop thinking that this is just a government or big brother fist coming down on you telling you what to do. They are simply telling you and staring to recognize that..

    “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

    – Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and Director of the World Wide Web Consortium

  • Anonymous

    I tried to use Target’s website a month ago and could not find the product I was looking for. The website is a complete basket case.

    The product was in the store which is where I went once I got fed up with their website.

  • http://www.tekopia.co.uk blain

    Out of 30 odd comments only 1 person so far has commented on what I feel is the most important point.
    Target have had to fork out $6million becuase of their bloody minded arrogance, if they had instead invited Mr Sexton to a meeting with their developers to act as a consultant, they would have acheived the same end result, with a lot better PR and $6million still in their bank account.
    They deserve to lose every penny.

  • TooEasy

    All the arguments against this in relation to being able to purchase from the newsagent large print versions and audio tapes etc are just ridiculous. Of course you cant do that. It would cost insane amounts to be able to create written and audio mediums to cater for all people.

    The simple fact is that adding alt tags and making sites accessible to all is easy, doesn’t take long to do and should be done. It just takes a little bit of memory and a slight bit more effort and you include everyone.

  • unknownsolutions

    I have a question, if the target website went offline for a day. Would target be liable for all the visitors that weren’t able to access the website?

  • http://altoonadesign.com halfasleeps

    does this mean I can now sue any all-flash e-commerce site?

  • http://altoonadesign.com halfasleeps

    “Oh come on, stop whinging. It’s not that hard to alt text your images or to use semantic mark up.

    It’s not like you haven’t heard of web standards before now, is it?”

    I donut think anyone is saying that you shouldn’t optimize your site for the blind, I think we are just saying that you shouldn’t have to pay $6 mil if you don’t.

  • http://altoonadesign.com halfasleeps

    ^^^ I meant to say “do not”…not “donut”….now I look stupid lol

  • http://www.tdtsolutions.com TDTSolutions

    @unknownsolutions

    I don’t see how Target would be liable for a site that is not online – a screen reader could figure that much out when it sees the 404 page. If the store was closed for the day for renovations, I don’t think the police would be knocking on their door telling them to open up or we’ll sue. I think your getting “access to a site” and “web accessibility” mixed up.

    @halfasleeps

    It’s a good question actually. Are you blind? If you are then you could potentially sue them I suppose. But building an ecommerce site in flash is just not good practice. Even then you should provide a full html equivalent of the Flash site. I’d be more impressed and feel more secure putting my credit card info into a site that was clean, easy to navigate, without animation & flash, and of course was reputable. It’s just not a good idea to even build a full flash e-commerce website… period…

    Look at it this way. When you bought your first item online with your credit card, how scared were you that your number would be stolen and your credit card would be maxed out before you know it? Imagine what is like for someone with a disability to always have a lack in confidence that their identity would be stolen, credit cards maxed by hackers, all because they couldn’t navigate the site properly or it wasn’t 100% accessible to them? Not a good feeling is it?

    6 Million is a lot of money, but sometimes it takes a large sum of money like this to open people’s eyes that they could be next.

  • http://www.andyandjaime.com creole

    @TDT
    “should provide a full html equivalent of the Flash site” and “legally obligated to provide a full html equivalent of the Flash site” are at the core of this discussion. Target is being forced provide alternatives at a penalty to their bottom line.

  • http://www.arwebdesign.net samanime

    (Just to note, I stopped reading the other comments about half way down because I got tired of seeing “This is ridiculous, random whining…”, though I did notice TDTSolutions making some good points. I apologize if some of the points below have been stated before.)

    I followed this case throughout it’s proceedings. There are a few key points that a lot of people are missing that makes this case stand out against Sue & Bob Small Business’ website.

    First off, if you notice, it wasn’t like he went to Target’s website and was like “Oh, this isn’t accessible! I’ll sue.” He spent “considerable energy”. I forget how much, but he basically contacted Target several times and asked them to make their website accessible and they flat out refused.

    Secondly, Target has many specials and deals that are available only through their website. Even if he did “drive” to Target, he couldn’t get the same price or product. There was also no customer service which would help him in navigating the website to access these deals.

    Now, onto the topic of what the government does and doesn’t make you do. The government actually does make you accommodate the disabled, because to not do so is discrimination. I’m not sure of the exact requirements, but basically you have to assist the disabled “within reason”. This means that larger buildings are required to have ramps. Large retailers are required to have people to assist the disabled. The list goes on.

    Target is one of the largest retailers in the world. I don’t care to look up the exact figure right now, but I’m sure their net income is pretty high up there. They can afford a few extra thousand dollars to make their website accessible.

    The ADA says that you can’t discriminate against the disabled and must help them within reason. What is within reason for Sue & Bob Small Business is a lot different than what is within reason for Target, Walmart, etc.

    Additionally, you can’t sue (and win) someone for an inaccessible website without first contacting them and informing them of the problem. That means that if it was an honest mistake, you won’t just randomly lose money. You’ll have a chance to fix the problem first.

    —————————————————————————–

    Now, on matters more related to web development. 95% of accessibility is super simple to accomplish, and is enough for all but the largest websites. Simply use alt tags, limit images, gracefully degrade Javascript, etc. and you’ll be fine. To make an accessible website you simply have to follow best practices. These best practices benefit far more than those that are disabled as well.

    The other 5% of accessibility takes a bit more thought, but isn’t that much work and those clients that require it will have the extra money to pay you for your time. These include subtitles in videos, transcripts of audio, etc. Nothing too difficult or too costly.

    If you aren’t doing at least the 95% of that accessibility, to put it bluntly, you are a poor web developer and should seriously reconsider your profession.

    Not to call anyone out, but I was particularly disgusted with the comment about money being “wasted” on accessibility when it is needed elsewhere. Making something more accessible is never a waste and can only help your business or product as it greatly increases your potential customers.

    Also, disabled users aren’t a “small minority”. I forget the exact statistics, but something like one in five people has some kind of disability (likely not as severe as total blindness or deafness, but a disability none the less).

    Please, do yourself a favor and do some real research. Don’t just glance at the people in the room with you and decide that accessibility is a waste of time. We’ve had at least one or two good discussions about the Target topic at Sitepoint. Take a look at those at the very least.

    ——————————————————————————

    As for my personal opinion on this turn of events, I think it’s great, from many stand-points. While it is a great victory for disabled users, it’s also a great victory for (good) web developers.

    This gives us another selling point where we have some hard facts to back up that a flimsy, inaccessible website can get you in trouble.

    I’d post more in-depth info, but I’m afraid I have to get going.

  • http://www.tdtsolutions.com TDTSolutions

    @samanime

    Excellent read. Well said, good job.. keep up the good work.

    Please, do yourself a favor and do some real research. Don’t just glance at the people in the room with you and decide that accessibility is a waste of time.

    Unfortunately samanime – this is the root of most ignorance in this thread, people don’t do their research and jump on the same wagon as the next person who has nothing but negativity to say without having facts or real user experience to back up the argument.

    @blain

    You are absolutely right. IF Target had of consulted with Mr.Sexton then there could have been so much avoided.. but.. if it didn’t happen to Target, it would eventually happen to someone else. Unfortunately for Target, they have to take the heat for it. Glad it happened.

    @cerole

    What? I have no idea what point you are trying to make.

  • http://www.arwebdesign.net samanime

    I think what cerole is trying to say is that legally having to provide a full HTML equavalent of a Flash site is at the heart of this discussion, at that if they have to, it cuts into their profits.

    While I don’t really think that is at the heart of this discussion, it is related.

    Once again, this goes into the “within reason” area of the ADA. The Japanese clothing designer mentioned earlier, assuming they are fairly small-time would likely not be expected to have a full HTML equivalent of a Flash website. However, if Target, Walmart, or any other large retailer were to have a website [where they sell products online], I would absolutely expect them to have a full HTML equivalent, no questions asked.

    It’s all about size. Let’s compare the physical location versus website again. If you go to one of these small towns that have small shops with stair entryways. Because they are small, they aren’t required to have entrance ramps for those in wheelchairs. However, Walmart and Target, some of the largest retailers in the world, are required to have such ramps.

    Same with the website. The small shop with a small website doesn’t necessarily have to have the digital ramp, though Walmart and Target should.

    However, I would expect the both to try to accomidate both as reasonably as they could. I would imagine that a small shop owner may ask the person in a wheelchair if they need could help them by bringing them out what they would like to purchase (we’re assuming really small shop here). I’d also expect someone at Walmart to be willing to help someone in a wheelchair get something off of a high shelf.

    It’s not like they are requiring Sue & Bob Small Business to have a $100,000,000,000 website that can be navigated by thought and mentally project the image into a blind persons mind. It’s saying that you should work within reason to accomidate them. If your gross income is only about $200,000, of course you can’t afford a $100,000 website. Likewise, when your income is in the 9+ digits, it’s not unfathomable for you to spend $100,000 to get a reasonably accessible website (though, I don’t think it would cost that much to get Target’s entire website redone from scratch).

    Keep in mind this too: Someone with a walking stick swinging it back and forth as they walk and wearing dark glasses is obviously blind. But your classmate next to you doesn’t have the same indications that he’s color blind, or that he is legally blind in one eye. Your supervisor doesn’t wear a sign that says he is deaf in one ear and only at about 20% in the other. Your best friend may not wear a shirt that says “It hurts to move” to indicate that he has artritis in his hand that makes it difficult to type or perform fine precission with a mouse. Just because someone isn’t sitting in a wheel chair doesn’t mean they aren’t disabled.

    You probably know a lot more people that have a disability than you realize. Not everyone walks up to everyone and says “Hi, my name is Bill and I have no feeling in my fingers.”

  • 12sharks

    I interpret what cerole’s saying differently. Just for the sake of brevity, here’s a quick rundown of my beliefs on this issue:

    1. Clean, semantic and accessibility-focused coding is always best (and I won’t sign off on anything that isn’t).
    2. The internet is a place that should be available to people of all abilities; designers should take care to allow that.
    C. This is all beside the point.

    What I find concerning (and, as I interpret it, so does cerole) are the implications of the government making any ruling on the internet whatsoever. I love and respect the freedom we all enjoy online, and have been pleasantly surprised with its relative uninvolvement thus far. A case like this kind of makes me cringe – not because it “cuts into [my] profits” (I already do it, anyway), but because I get very worried hearing words like “judge” “forced” and “website” are found near each other.

    This trial has made waves that very well may result in progress – more awareness of client needs, better coding, more accessibility. This trial also raises some valid questions, however. Were this not settled out of court, how would the judge instructed to ‘fix’ the site? What background or consultants would s/he have? Would this open a gate by precedent for the government to interfere with other sites? How much and in what way?

    So, while I agree with and appreciate many of the “accessibility is good” arguments, I certainly think it’s simplifying the argument to go so far as effectively saying that “if you’re not in favor of this, you’re lazy and don’t care about the disabled”.

  • http://www.arwebdesign.net samanime

    You bring up a good point, 12sharks. Probably one of the only good points of having a negative reaction towards this outcome. (All of the other negative comments which I read were about being not wanting to be accessible, which isn’t a reasonable response in my opinion.)

    And, I do agree with you that the government has only mildly interfered, and it would be nice if they would remain so. I think one of the reasons this was won was because in this specific instance, it spills over into the “real world” because you can order products online that their brick-and-mortar stores sell but at special prices and discounts.

    It was my understanding that one of the major points of this case was that Target had deals and such which were available only online and couldn’t be redeemed at the store. Since he was unable to use the website, and unable to redeem the special deal(s) at the store, and couldn’t receive any customer service to help him order the products, it became an issue of preventing him from obtaining something that any able-bodied person would have been able to acquire, thus discriminating against him for being disabled.

    While I agree that it’s nice that the government does keep things unregulated for the most part, I can also see the good where larger business websites must meet certain criteria, just as larger business retail outlets must meet certain criteria… But, then you start getting into some gray area which is where I start getting worried.

  • sickntired

    sorry thought I would just say this. Using a text reader for a few weeks as part of a study for society of the blind I know what difference accessibility is. Secondly, the government is required to provide this to all users who try to access their websites. So why shouldnt individual businesses? Target.com is a american business so it must abide by american rules of conduct. This has nothing to do with japanese, or chinese, or german. Someone used the saying that newspapers should be done in braile. They actually take it one step further. they allow disabled readers to get newspapers online and via audio book and yes in many cases they provide a braille version. I say I am happy with what happened. It boost my business up as a completely valid selling point and forces those cheap people to actually pay for what my time as a programmer who validates and uses accessible code vs telling me my services are not needed and just to do the bare min. pffft.

  • 12sharks

    the government is required to provide this to all users who try to access their websites. So why shouldnt individual businesses?

    You’re kind of making my point, here. I’m in full agreement that standards-compliant, accessible markup is the way to go, but I completely disagree on its relevance to this topic. This, to me, is less about “should” and more about government interference regarding the internet. Consider this possibility:

    Say it came to the judge’s decision. Say also, instead of a decrepit old man who knew nothing about the internet beyond the two times he’s been on AOL it was *you*, an informed, savvy SitePoint community member. It was up to you to decide how Target.com met the standards the blind community was seeking – where would you begin? Given your involved and intelligent background, you’d probably suggest requiring the site to use ALT tags. That’s fine, but that (as any professional designer will tell you) is more of a ‘drop in the ocean’ considering accessibility than not doing anything at all. Is that where you’d set the bar? If not, where? Tabindexes? Outlawing Flash? Outlawing *images*?

    The part of this matter that frightens me is that any judge (presumably much less capable than yourself) could decree what is effectively legal and illegal as far as the coding of Web pages are concerned. I greatly enjoy the freedoms and opportunities presented to me online as do all others here, but that freedom is built upon the tradition of the internet as a self-regulating body as opposed to a monopolistic (or even capitalistic) arm of profiteering.

    Returning to my analogy (however unrealistic) of one of us – any of us – deciding what’s “accessible” online, upon what would those benchmarks be set? Upon whose approval would the interface be deemed satisfactory? What would, effectively, be a “negligently criminal” site? If Target.com were tagged as such, how many others could thusly be labeled?

    In closing, I believe the Web to be the ideal that many of its founders espouse – a read/write medium that encourages cross-communication. This is a medium that, in one aspect, engenders self-publishing, from the GeoCities pages of yore to the blogs of tomorrow, and to think that our government would have a say – slight though it may be – as to what is “legal” and not would be a great disservice to an otherwise burgeoning community.

    Does that mean I foresee a Web constructed of HTML-less Flash pages and endless Java sucks? Of course not. However, I strongly believe that this medium, unprecedented in human history in all its democratizing glory, belongs in the hands of its constituents rather than a few out-of-touch elected officials. And I believe that there is some degree of sanctity in that. Certainly, the tide is turning as the Web becomes more of a ‘utility’ than a novelty in most peoples’ lives, but just as quickly as someone can turn a buck through a procedure of legislation can someone effect change through the betterment of the collective, and, in the internet’s nascent state as it is, is it really best to make such rash decisions? I believe those can only hurt at this point – let’s look towards the future before relying on legal pursuits to achieve today’s means.

  • Anonymous

    This is absolute bull**** to put a finer point on it.

    Target should of listened when it came to the alt tags, there’s got to be more to the case than just that, but to sue them is a step too far. Whatever next deaf people campaigning to use radio stations?

    I’m a big advocate of accessibility, I can’t see a case like this happening in the UK.

  • http://www.featuredhost.com featuredhost

    this discussion is bound to get good amount of argument from either side …
    those who have justified the extreme necessity of having an accessible website at all costs …. i would surely like to understand what exactly they consider as their point .
    Do you want All Websites to have 100% validated markups ?
    Is the validation for abiding by the VALIDATION STANDARDS or for helping a blind person make a purchase ?
    Would you be happy if a store like Target / Wallmart have a text only page , specially made for blind users ?
    Do you feel such validation is necessary only for the large retailers or software vendors and large sites and portals … or it is necessary for each and every website – to make it possible for people with disabilities have Access to Information on anything that is public on the internet ? A small brochure website may also include contact information which they will require ?

    A blog might contain podcasts which could be inaccessible to deaf people .
    Should youtube be made to automatically create text versions of any video that is uploaded or uploaders be forced to submit videos with subtitles ? Youtube is a veritable resource of information in todays world.

    What i am getting at here is : how much strictly do you think this penalty for making content on the web inaccessible be applied to ? What exactly is injustice and what is non-adherence to regulations ?

  • Stephen R

    If you don’t think that’s wrong then try replacing the adjective “disabled” with “black” or “female”.

    These are not even close to the same thing. The store owner is not putting out a sign saying “No Coloreds”, nor “No Wheelchairs”. It is _physical reality_ that is hindering the handicapped person. There is a difference between barring a person you don’t like and being forced to jump through extra hoops to provide extra services for people with disabilities.

    Let’s compare the physical location versus website again. If you go to one of these small towns that have small shops with stair entryways. Because they are small, they aren’t required to have entrance ramps for those in wheelchairs.

    If the law allows the lawsuit, there will be lawsuits. It only takes a jackass judge to decide that everything is “reasonable”.

    There was a wheelchair-bound guy in Chicago going around suing stores that had steps. Exactly the kind of small stores you describe — small local businesses in storefronts in older buildings. Two or three steps up to the door. This dude was driving around looking for businesses like that and then would sue them. He wasn’t even living in the area — these weren’t businesses he would have been patronizing, but he saw easy cash and he got it.

    Beyond that, 12sharks nailed it. 100% agreement. With all the idiotic patents I see passed, I don’t want the government to start tossing out legal requirements for how I must code a web site. If I do it wrong, I lose customers. My competitor does it right and gains customers. End of story. The .gov should stay the heck out of it.

    Imagine the government declaring that it’s illegal for you to _not_ learn Spanish, because a Spanish speaker might want to talk to you and not know that language would be discrimination? Some businesses advertise “Se Habla Espanol” (in Chicago they advertise Polish too). Other don’t. The government doesn’t require you to Habla Espanol to go into business — and rightly so.

    As far as I’m concerned, my website is speech. As in First Amendment.

  • Dave

    And then they came for me…

  • elemental70

    This is a GOOD thing. I spoke with a business owner who wondered why her website was not earning her money. I took a look and told her it was not accessible to EVERYONE, such as people of low vision or less than perfect motor skills. She said, no one with disabilities uses my site. I promptly ended the conversation there. People who are differently abled are still PEOPLE and deserve to be able to use the web and hell, give companies their money as they see fit.

    The arrogance of Target is incredible. And some of the things I see here are sad. The government in this case is correct in what it is doing: Upholding anti-discrimination laws. This applies to websites as well. I’m also glad that they are putting it to comcast but that is another post for another time.

    My point is: as web designers/developers/prima f’n donnas in some cases, we have the responsibility to our clients and their customers to ensure that EVERYONE can use the websites we build. Any other way is not only poor business practice, but is also very lazy as there is no excuse for poor planning in this area. And any developer who won’t take the time to DO IT RIGHT is not one I wish to deal with!

  • MrWebDevGuy

    The quick and dirty solution here would have been to just simply put in a snippet of code that would have identified the screen-reader and notified the user that the site isn’t screen-reader accessable and that any deals and promotions will be handled by Customer Service Staff at some specific phone number.

    Though this is not entirely user-friendly, it gets the job done.

    On the other hand, taking the time to make a dynamic site accessable is just plain smart. ADA is in place for a reason, Equality. The secret to a accessible website is just a google search away, and if you do everything correctly, it should only consume 1-5% (on average) of your expendables.

  • ChipPanFire

    This is absolute bull**** to put a finer point on it.

    Target should of listened when it came to the alt tags, there’s got to be more to the case than just that, but to sue them is a step too far. Whatever next deaf people campaigning to use radio stations?

    I’m a big advocate of accessibility, I can’t see a case like this happening in the UK.

    A case in GB would be very welcome and has a much higher chance of success under the same circumstances since the relevant Codes of Practice specifically include purchases from a website.

    These are not even close to the same thing. The store owner is not putting out a sign saying “No Coloreds”, nor “No Wheelchairs”. It is _physical reality_ that is hindering the handicapped person. There is a difference between barring a person you don’t like and being forced to jump through extra hoops to provide extra services for people with disabilities.

    Not to the person being discriminated against there isn’t.

    There was a wheelchair-bound guy in Chicago going around suing stores that had steps. Exactly the kind of small stores you describe — small local businesses in storefronts in older buildings. Two or three steps up to the door. This dude was driving around looking for businesses like that and then would sue them. He wasn’t even living in the area — these weren’t businesses he would have been patronizing, but he saw easy cash and he got it.

    In Britain that gets you nowhere. the key here is a reasonable adjustment, ie what can you reasonably do. What’s reasonable for a large corporation isn’t necessarily reasonable to expect from a small local store. It’s all about proportionality and the law recognises that.

  • Chris

    While I agree that everyone should be able to use any website regardless of their ability/disability; I think it is irresponsible of any government to impose regulations on individuals or collectives when it comes to an area as subject to opinion as website accessibility.
    The point has been made that there are many different kinds of impairments/disabilities and while some are clear cut in terms of accessibility requirements, it isn’t always easy to cater for every possibility, or even enforce compliance in this regard.
    Accessibility, in the main, is easy to achieve and important, but sites don’t always require it (YouTube, LastFm) and clients don’t always want it (translation: pay for it).

    Whatever happened to ‘Right of Admission Reserved’ anyway?

  • trebor002

    Many compelling and sometimes reasonable arguments, but the most obvious resolution is creation of a special browser which can interpret all sites. If this was a major issue the government would dictate this be done. There are many products available to assist the disabled, creating a special browser would have less industry impact than rewriting every website.

  • Anonymous

    I think it is impossible to accommodate everyone and people should not be forced to. I have an illness (chemical sensitivity) and let me tell you that MOST people could give a care less how they affect the people who suffer from this illness. We cannot force people to use safe inks for newspapers and books, safe ingredients for cleaning, washing and every other thing that involves us everyday. I am NOT talking about being inconvenienced by not being able to shop. I am talking about damaging our health even further and there is nothing we can do. It would be nice to have pthers to help accomodate us but I don’t think it’s reasonable to try and force anyone.

  • SomeRandomGuy

    My web design class just started using CSS coding and she warned us about making our sites accessible to the blind. I’m glad I read this before I make a stupid mistake like this.

    LoL at whoever created their website… ^^ Should listen to your teachers more ><;

  • jeaston

    Reading these comments I see that there are a number of misconceptions about the Target case.

    RIGHTS: The current state and US federal laws on accessibility do not touch Website owners RIGHTS at all – they merely give ‘classes’ of people the right to sue businesses deemed ‘public accomodations’ (read commercial enterprises, not blogs or such) that specifically and overtly deny a ‘class’ of people access to their business.

    This is where Target went wrong – when the disabled community came to them and asked to ‘enter’ there business, they publicly stated that they did not WANT to give the disabled access to their store. If target would have said that they are working on it and it will take a year or two, the whole lawsuit would have never happened. But Target was right, they did have the RIGHT to refuse entry – they just had to pay for that right in the form of lawsuit settlements – the government does not have the ability to force a specific solution on a Website.

    In most states, the laws used to sue Websites for not being accessible are decades old civil rights laws, not laws specific to the disabled or the Internet – I believe this was the case in the Target lawsuit.

    So as a online business owner you have the right to refuse entry to anyone you deem appropriate – if, however, you publicly state that you are excluding a whole class of people based on race, disability, gender, etc., you ought not be surprised when you get sued.

  • http://quadrank.com Quadrank SEO services

    I think trebor002 has a great idea! A dedicated, special interpreting browser platform for the blind. Most awesome.