NFB & Target Settlement Agreement Sends Signal: Make Web Sites Accessible to Blind Customers
By Meaghan Olson
As part of a class action settlement recently filed, Target Corp. will pay out $6 million in damages and make its Web site user-friendly for blind shoppers.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) filed a lawsuit against Target Corp. in a San Francisco federal court in 2006 for not having a blind-accessible Web site. Other U.S. online retailers have been closely following this case and many are likely to follow suit in creating fully accessible Web sites.
Assistive technology can convert Web copy and documents into speech or Braille. This technology has opened up the Internet world to many blind people; however, the technology will only work on Web sites that are properly coded. Many Web sites are like Target's former site and are not coded to work with the blind-assistance software.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of NFB, hopes this will change and said in a press release, "Access to Web sites is critical to the full and equal participation of blind people in all aspects of modern life... it is our sincere hope that other businesses providing goods and services over the Internet will follow Target's example and take affirmative steps to provide full access to their Web sites by blind consumers."
The Class Action Lawsuit & the Legal Dispute
The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act requires retailers to make accommodations for people with disabilities. In this lawsuit, Target argued that the law only referred to physical spaces and did not apply to Web sites on the Internet.
Two previous settlement negotiations fell through after Target initially said it wouldn't agree to fix the Web site and later because the two groups couldn't agree on a monetary settlement amount, according to an interview with Laurence Paradis, a disability rights lawyer who worked on the lawsuit.
According to Paradis, it took Northern District of California Judge Marilyn Hall Patel to certify a state and national class in late 2007 for the settlement agreement to eventually be made.
The Settlement Agreement
As part of the settlement agreement, Target will establish a $6 million fund where those involved in the settlement can make claims to receive their share.
The NFB will also be hired to oversee the changes and train Web coders responsible for reprogramming Target.com. The changes must all be made by February 28, 2009 and, once completed, NFB agreed that it would certify Target.com through its Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification program.
Target.com's president Steve Eastman released a statement saying, "We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind regarding the accessibility of Target.com for individuals who use assistive technologies and will work with the NFB on further refinements to our Web site."