September 1, 2009, 12:00 AM

Newegg is the first retailer to get the gold for web accessibility for the blind

In August, the National Federation for the Blind cited computer products retailer Newegg as the first online merchant to reach the foundation’s gold-level certification for making its web site easy to use by blind shoppers.

Enabling the blind to shop online has been on many retailers` radar screens, but few have created a web experience that fully meets the needs of the visually impaired.

Last month, however, the National Federation of the Blind cited computer products retailer Newegg Inc. as the first online merchant to reach the foundation`s gold-level Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification for making its retail web site easy to use by blind shoppers.

Newegg`s certification, the product of a six-month accessibility project, dispels several myths about the cost and difficulty of making e-commerce sites accessible to the blind, says Anne Taylor, the director of the NFB`s accessibility technology team.

"One myth is that a retail web site has to be boring and dull to make it accessible, another is that web site accessibility is too costly," Taylor says.

Although Newegg is the first to achieve the NFB`s gold-level certification, the retailer is among a growing number of merchants in various stages of making their sites more accessible to people with physical impairments who struggle to use traditional web sites. The NFB is also working with Inc., Apple Inc.`s iTunes site and Target Corp., whose legal settlement with the NFB earlier this year helped spur interest in retail web site accessibility, an NFB spokesman says.

In addition, retail pharmacy chain CVS Corp. recently announced it had agreed to work with the American Foundation for the Blind, the American Council of the Blind and the California Council of the Blind to make in-store payment card keypads and its retail web site more accessible to blind people. About a dozen other retailers have signed similar agreements with these organizations (which are not affiliated with the NFB), including Dollar General Corp., Trader Joe`s Co. and Target Corp., says Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American Council of the Blind.

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