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Websites inaccessible to the blind may be illegal

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softwareNerd
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As odd as the title to this thread sounds, the National Federation of the Blind decided to sue Target, saying that they did not do enough to make their web-site accessible to people with disabilities. (Being smart, they sued in California.)

Target asked the case be thrown out on the basis that the Americans with disabilities Act (ADA) did not apply to web-sites. The judge thought otherwise. She said: the act "applies to the services of a place of public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation" (emphasis mine).

The suit will therefore proceed. A negative ruling against Target could impact a large number of US-based web-sites.

(Link to ComputerWorld article.)

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I used to work for an internet trading company whose office was literally down the street from the state school for the blind in Austin. A lot of customers were blind. They had web browsers that either greatly magnified parts of the screen or text browsers that read out the pages. It worked really well until we converted over to a very forms intensive site which the text reading browsers had trouble figuring out.

We did get some complaints and honestly I'm surprised we didn't get sued for an ADA violation at the time. I guess they chose Target since they are the weak gazelles in the herd. Kind of like the Linux suits against AutoZone and Chrysler. Luckily, they didn't turn out to well for the company filing the bs suit.

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I've gotta admit I'm curious as to how a blind person can use a website, unless there's some new monitor from which braile pops out of the screen.

There are programs called "Screen Readers," a popular one being JAWS, that read text on a webpage aloud using voice softeware. A blind user can scroll through hyperlinks on a webpage and have them read back. If a link is an image, and no alternate text is provided in the code, the screen reader can not read it. This makes some pages more difficult to navigate than others. Usually, the more complex and visually compelling a web page is, the harder it is for a screen reader to vocalize it.

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Oh great, yet another thing for Web Designers to worry about. Cannot say it surprises me though...there has been such a big fuss about in some programming circles over the last little while.

Well, this does not affect me as much yet as I am in America...however I am not quite naive enough not to know that this is bad news for me....as if enough people here in New Zealand listen to this, our socialist government might decide also that this is a good idea.

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  • 3 years later...

Now a partly blind guy is suing Sony for not making "reasonable accommodations" to some WWE game.

"Sony has constructed the products in a way that is inaccessible to plaintiff; maintains the products in this inaccessible form; and has failed to take any action whatsoever to correct these barriers even after being repeatedly notified of the discrimination that such barriers cause," according to the suit.
HT: Slashdot Edited by softwareNerd
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Curious about the case mentioned in the opening post, I Googled, to find that Target settled. They agreed to pay $6 million to "the class" of plaintiffs, and $20K to one individual plaintiff. they also agreed to change their web-site and to have the National Federation of Blind (NFB) to monitor their site, for which Target would pay them $50K initially, and then $40K per year. Also, Target would send its programmers for one-day training by the NFB, for which Target would pay $15K per 1-day session.

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I'm sorry if this question has an obvious answer, but why would Target agree to settle the case? Is there some benefit of settling a case instead of fighting it out? It would have been nice to see them fight at least based on principle...

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I'm guessing it's cheaper to settle than to lose a trial.

I'm disgusted that this thing passes in today's age as justice. Next we will be required to gauge our eyes out in the name of equality.

Maybe they should sue car makers for not producing a car the blind can drive. Now, there's a goldmine!

Imagine! Starting a lawsuit because a company doesn't cater to your demographic. Disgusting.

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I'm sorry if this question has an obvious answer, but why would Target agree to settle the case? Is there some benefit of settling a case instead of fighting it out? It would have been nice to see them fight at least based on principle...

Also of note to this question likely, I have a class with a teacher who used to be a lawyer who has spoken to our class numerous times about just how few cases outside of things like violent crimes actually end up ever getting to court. Evidently, our court system is extremely bogged down; we don't seem to be providing enough courts in general to take care of the load of cases being brought up. So, there is a HUGE amount of pressure for people to make settlements outside of court. HUGE. They'll make it damn hard for you to actually get to court, it will be a very long and expensive process you'll have to keep doing lots of pressing to make sure it actually ever does get to court. Hearing about this from my teacher both explained to me why so often you hear about the most ridiculous lawsuits still being agreed to settlements for by obviously innocent parties and was very sad and pathetic to learn of. We aren't sufficiently funding and providing for one of the major seriously important, legitimate functions of the government and the result is widespread practice of "settling," meaning application of the old always evil middle of the road where the evil gets unearned legitimacy and fuel and innocent parties seem to be getting pressed into that sanction of the victim by conceding at least some right of that other party. What a grievous flouting of justice that our so called justice system routinely will try to get people to throw out the window concern for actual facts and right and wrong and just get them compromise on something between to shut them up and make them go away. It reminds me bitterly of a sort of internal application onto many average people the same kind of attitudes and appeasement that are applied to foreign affairs and the machinations of congress. And of course, just like appeasement only inspires repetition and emboldening in those realms, so too you see people making more and more suits based on the successes of similar prior ones.

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I'm guessing it's cheaper to settle than to lose a trial.
That's probably it. They could win or lose. If they lose, the jury might make them pay much more than $6 million. Meanwhile, they might get bad press. So, they might figure that $6 million is worth it to get the certainty of outcome and the closure.

Of course, in the long run this can only breed more such cases.

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but isn't that opening the door for more cases. I mean if you back down more are going to take advantage of it.

Probably so, but even if you knew you'd get X number of extra cases by settling, it still might be cheaper to do so. Some of these class actions have obscene damage awards; even more damaging might be that there's very little recourse to recover expenses when you win a trial in these cases. It's not like target can force the claimant to pay 10 million in legal fees, because most normal people just don't have that and I doubt the law allows it.

But I do think doing something like that (having the loser pay the costs) would raise the bar for lawsuits; however, that would also inadvertently prevent some legitimate lawsuits from getting to court because of the ever present chance of losing.

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As odd as the title to this thread sounds, the National Federation of the Blind decided to sue Target, saying that they did not do enough to make their web-site accessible to people with disabilities. (Being smart, they sued in California.)

Target asked the case be thrown out on the basis that the Americans with disabilities Act (ADA) did not apply to web-sites. The judge thought otherwise. She said: the act "applies to the services of a place of public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation" (emphasis mine).

The suit will therefore proceed. A negative ruling against Target could impact a large number of US-based web-sites.

(Link to ComputerWorld article.)

This is just illegal and goes against the legitimate rights of businesses. Our quasi-socialist government continues to force businesses to curb their rights. How long can we let this go on?

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