National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corporation

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National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corporation was a class action lawsuit in the United States that was filed on February 7, 2006 in California state court, and subsequently moved to federal court. The case challenged whether the limitations the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 imposes on businesses also apply to e-commerce websites. The plaintiff, National Federation of the Blind (NFB), sued Target Corporation, a national retail chain, claiming that blind people were unable to access much of the information on the defendant's website, nor purchase anything from its website independently.[1]

Pre-trial negotiations and filing[edit]

In May 2005, the NFB wrote to Target, asking for it to make its website accessible to people who are blind. The NFB claimed that Target could make its website accessible by making it comply with either the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board's Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 standards, specifically its use of the alt attribute for clickable images featured on the website. For example, when a blind user visiting this website selected an image of a Dyson vacuum cleaner using his or her tab key, the voice synthesizer on the computer would say "Link GP browse dot html reference zero six zero six one eight nine six three eight one eight zero seven two nine seven three five 12 million 957 thousand 121" instead of a useful description of the image. [2] The NFB also claimed that the site lacked image maps and other features that would allow blind people to navigate more easily through the website, and that the checkout process on the website required the user to be able to determine where the mouse pointer was on the screen.[3] The NFB and Target started negotiating in May; the NFB claims these negotiations lasted until January 2006. On February 7, 2006, the NFB sued Target, claiming its website violated the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Disabled Persons Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.[1]

Motions to dismiss and for class action certification[edit]

Target moved to dismiss the case, claiming its brick and mortar stores are accessible to the blind, and that civil rights laws apply to the accessibility of its stores. However, on September 7, 2006, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled that a retailer may be sued if its website is inaccessible to the blind, stating that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination in the "enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges."[4] Until this ruling, commercial websites were not considered a place of accommodation and were assumed to not fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Target responded by claiming "We believe our Web site complies with all applicable laws and are committed to vigorously defending this case. We will continue to implement technology that increases the usability of our Web site for all our guests, including those with disabilities."[2] Target argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was intended to apply to physical accommodations instead of cyberspace, and that such application of the California acts on accessibility would violate the United States Constitution's Commerce Clause.[3]

The court held that certain online retailers must provide access to the disabled. The court certified a class action against Target on behalf of blind Internet customers throughout the country.[5] The court previously denied Target’s motion to dismiss and upheld NFB's argument that websites like Target.com must be accessible to the blind under both California law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Settlement[edit]

On September, 2008, the parties reached a settlement, stipulating that further changes would be made to the Target.com website and related policies, and establishing a $6,000,000 settlement fund to compensate members of the California subclass. The parties also agreed that Target would pay the plaintiffs’ reasonable attorneys' fees and litigation costs in an amount to be determined by the court. On August 3, 2009, Judge Patel awarded $3,738,864.96 in attorney’s fees and costs to the plaintiffs. The court substantiated the award by declaring that “Plaintiffs have broken new ground in an important area of law” and noting that “plaintiffs’ litigation strategy involved the extension of important areas of disability law into an emerging form of electronic commerce that promises to grow in importance.”

NFB awards NFB-NVA gold certification to Target[edit]

On February 9th, 2010 The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's leading advocate for Internet access by blind Americans, awarded the Gold Level NFB-NVA Certification to Target.com. The NFB and Target have worked diligently in partnership to help ensure equal access is given to Target.com products and information to blind consumers and The NFB commended Target's leadership in Web accessibility.

See also[edit]

References[edit]