Target 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.