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 National Federation of the Blind v. Target

Target Corporation Sued for Discrimination Against the Blind

February 7, 2006

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has filed a class action suit in California’s Alameda County Courthouse against Target Corporation, the nationwide discount retailer which operates more than 1,300 stores in 47 states.

The suit – brought by NFB, the NFB of California, and a blind Californian, Bruce “BJ” Sexton, on behalf of themselves and all blind people in California – charges that Target’s website (www.target.com) is inaccessible to the blind, violating the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.

The plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based non-profit law firm that specializes in high-impact cases on behalf of people with disabilities, Schneider & Wallace, a plaintiff’s class action and civil rights law firm in San Francisco, and Brown, Goldstein & Levy a leading civil rights law firm in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Blind customers should have the same access to Target’s online services that Target offers its sighted customers,” says NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer.

Dr. Maurer explains that blind persons access websites by using keyboards in conjunction with screen-reading software which vocalizes visual information on a computer screen.

Target’s website – which according to its home page is “powered by Amazon.com” – contains significant access barriers that prevent blind customers from browsing and purchasing products online, as well as from finding important corporate information such as employment opportunities, investor news, and company policies.

The plaintiffs charge that Target.com fails to meet the minimum standard of web accessibility. It lacks compliant alt-text, an invisible code embedded beneath graphic images that allows screen readers to detect and vocalize a description of the image to a blind computer user. It also contains inaccessible image maps, preventing blind users from jumping to different destinations within the website. And because the website requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind Target customers are unable to make purchases on Target.com independently.

“We tried to convince Target that it should make its website accessible through negotiations,” says Dr. Maurer. “It’s unfortunate that Target was unwilling to commit to equal access for all its online customers. That gave us no choice but to seek the protection of the court. The website is no more accessible today than it was in May of last year, when we first complained to Target.”

Explaining the grounds for the NFB suit, Mazen M. Basrawi, Equal Justice Works Fellow at Disability Rights Advocates, notes that Target’s actions are in violation of California law, which in turn incorporates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “Target.com is a ‘public place’ within the meaning of California Civil Code because it is open to the public, and because the laws apply to all services related to Target stores, including the website,” says Basrawi.

“Simply put, Target is a retail outlet, a public place, with a public website. The retail outlet is a store, and the website is a service provided by and integrated with the brick-and-mortar stores,” Basrawi continues.

The complaint filed today by NFB in California Superior Court for Alameda County seeks to enjoin Target from continued violation of the California Civil Code. The suit asks the court to declare that Target is operating its website in a manner that discriminates against the blind and persons with visual disabilities in violation of California law, and seeks damages for the plaintiffs.

“I want to be able to shop online at Target.com just like anyone else,” says UC Berkeley student BJ Sexton, who is a named plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I believe that millions of blind people like me can use the internet just as easily as do the sighted, if the website is accessible.”

Files Available for Downloading

Read the NFB v. Target Fact Sheet [ Word ]
Read the Complaint [ PDF ]

©2000-2006 Disability Rights Advocates. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer
ADDRESS: 2001 Center Street, Third Floor, Berkeley California 94704-1204
PHONE: 510-665-8644 | EMAIL:



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