Target settles with blind patrons over site accessibility

Retail giant will pay $6 million to plaintiffs and promises to embed Target.com with code that makes it fully usable by blind visitors, ending a class action suit.

Target and an advocacy group for the blind announced Wednesday that they've settled a class action lawsuit regarding the accessibility of Target.com for the visually impaired.

lawsuits

The retail giant will establish a $6 million fund for settlement claims and promised to make its site fully accessible to blind visitors as part of a deal ending a class action lawsuit filed two and a half years ago.

The suit against Target was first filed in early 2006 by the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind, which claimed Target.com contained thousands of access barriers making it difficult, if not impossible, for blind customers to use.

Bruce Sexton, one of the original named plaintiffs who we talked to in February 2006, expressed frustration with the lack of alt-text on the site that screen-reading software detects in order to vocalize a description of an image. Without such features, the site violates federal and state laws that entitle the disabled equal access to business and government services, the lawsuit claimed.

Specifically, the settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, requires that blind guests using screen-reader software on Target.com "may acquire the same information and engage in the same transactions as are available to sighted guests with substantially equivalent ease of us." The NFB will certify the Target Web site through its Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification program once the agreed upon improvements are completed in early 2009.

Sexton, in a statement, said the settlement "marks a new chapter in making Web sites accessible to the blind," and commended Target for its efforts. Likewise, NFB President Marc Maurer said he hopes "other businesses providing goods and services over the Internet will follow Target's example."

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