Update on the Target accessibility lawsuit

In March last year I posted Target sued for refusing to make their website accessible, where I talked about the USA-based retail chain being sued by the US National Federation of the Blind. The reason for the lawsuit was that Target refused to, among other things, put alt text on images and make the site usable without a mouse.

Since then there has not been a lot of news about the case, at least not that I am aware of. I had started thinking that nothing would come out of it, and that Target would get away with having an inaccessible website (and keep living in the past when it comes to Web development practices). But recent news indicates that it's not over yet.

The judge in the case has now given the lawsuit class-action status, which, if I understand it correctly, means that any blind person in the USA who has unsuccessfully tried to use target.com can become a plaintiff in the suit against Target. Good news I think. If a business can't be bothered to make their website accessible, especially after repeatedly being made aware of the problems and given plenty of time to make adjustments, it should cost them. A lot.

Over the last week plenty of articles about this lawsuit have been posted on various sites. Reading the comments on some of them (mostly those posted on sites whose audience does not primarily consist of standards-aware web developers) is... how shall I put it... entertaining. No, frustrating. Some people have very strange and misinformed opinions on how horribly limiting and even impossible it apparently is to build accessible websites.

For the record, requiring websites to be accessible does not make building them too expensive or create an artificial barrier to entry. Neither does it mean websites have to be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator or that you cannot use images, Flash, JavaScript, or Ajax.

What it does mean is that people who design and program websites need to be aware of modern best practices in web design and development. Which we all should anyway, since it's part of our job.

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Posted on October 8, 2007 in Accessibility, Web Standards