It was bound to happen eventually…
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A federal district court judge issued two landmark decisions today in a nationwide class action against Target Corporation. First, the court certified the case as a class action on behalf of blind Internet users throughout the country under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Second, the court held that Web sites such as target.com are required by California law to be accessible. (read more)
What makes the site not accessible? Apparently, the lack of ALT tags.
Target’s well-established site (which is powered by Amazon backend technology) is alleged to lack enough “alt” tags to make the site functional, and the site’s image maps are also alleged to be inaccessible. (Target sued by blind student, ars technica, Feb 13 2006)
Apparently, the courts decided that the web site is an extension of the physical store, and both are bound by guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is where the court is wrong. The closest analogy to a web site is not a physical store; it is a print catalog. A web site is merely a tool to deliver information. Whereas a physical store, open to the general public, is required to be accessible to people with disabilities, a print catalog is not.
Further, does the lack of following accessibility guidelines by Target‘s web developers indicate that Target deliberately denied blind persons access to their products? Hardly. Did anyone consider whether you can call Target’s toll-free number and order merchandise over the phone, , or the fact that you can, as a blind person, go to a Target store and purchase the items wanted?
A company is not denying someone a product or service by not making every purchase medium accessible to everyone. Some companies may not ship merchandise out of state or out of the country; this does not mean they are being exclusionary to out-of-state customers. Some companies may refuse to take phone orders; this does not mean they are being exclusionary to those who are physically unable to move.
Don’t get me wrong — I am all for accessibility, but that is not something that should be a court-ordered mandate for a web site.