February 20, 2006, 12:00 AM

Blind advocacy group, consumer sue Target.com alleging site inaccessibility

The National Federation of the Blind and a blind consumer have filed a class-action lawsuit against Target Corp., charging that Target.com has thousands of access barriers that make it impossible for blind shoppers to use.

 

The National Federation of the Blind and a blind consumer have filed a class-action lawsuit against Target Corp., charging that Target.com has thousands of access barriers that make it impossible for blind shoppers to use.

The suit, filed in the Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court on Feb. 6, claims the barriers represent a violation of the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the state’s Disabled Persons Act. Also named as a plaintiff in the suit is the National Federation of the Blind of California.

The suit asks for unspecified damages and changes to make the web site accessible to the blind.

Target declined to comment on the suit, saying it has not seen the suit. However, in a statement, Target said “We strive to make our goods and service available to all of our guests, including those with disabilities.”

In the suit, plaintiff Bruce F. Sexton alleges that Target.com prevents the blind from freely navigating the site because it isn’t designed to work with keyboards that have screen-reading software which vocalizes visual information on a computer screen.

Among barriers alleged in the suit is a lack of Alt-text on graphics. Alt-text is an invisible code embedded beneath a graphical image on a web site. Screen readers detect and vocalize Alt-text to provide a description of the image.

Another alleged barrier cited in the suit was an inaccessible image map. An image map combines multiple words and links into a single image. Visual details on the image highlight different “hot spots,” which blind users can click to jump to different destinations within a web site. An accessible image map contains Alt-text for each hot spot.

The suit also charged that Target.com requires shoppers to use a mouse to complete transactions. Blind persons using screen readers are incapable of making purchases using mouse commands, thus preventing them from independently making purchases on the site.

The National Federation of the Blind in May notified Target of the accessibility barriers on the site, according to the suit. However, the two parties were unable to negotiate an agreement, leading to filing of the suit.

 

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