The webdev community’s response to the Target Lawsuit

You probably know that the American National Federation for the Blind are suing Target over their inaccessible website, after alerting them to the problem months ago and seeing no remedial action – even though the fixes would be trivial.

What’s shocked me is the response to it by some in the web development community.

Even on Molly‘s and Derek Featherstone‘s blogs, there were negative comments, suggesting that The Great American Way™ is somehow diluted if governments “interfere” in the free market by stopping discriminatory behaviour by those poor, put-upon corporations.

But on SitePoint the comments have been appalling. Fortunately, Patrick “Redux” Lauke has been tirelessly posting in a moderate, measured tone.

My capacity for such a tone is hampered by reading moron comments like “The internet is not made for blind people”. Tell that to Tim Berners-Lee, you twat. Indeed, “If they where blind then why would they be on the computer?” [sic]. It is suggested that “if you have bad eye sight you should expect it … its no ones fault and if the site owner wants his site for normal people then thats fair”.

One of my favourites (from Chris Beasley, a SitePoint blogger!): “Whats ignorant is thinking disabled people are normal. They are not normal … Here in the US we spend 10x more per year to send one disabled kid to a normal highschool than we spend on the smartest kid in that highschool.”

I stand by what I wrote on that forum (when a little fired up, having just come back from Karate training):

If you … can’t be bothered to build sites properly, go and do something else. Become a politician and get the Disability Discrimination Act repealed, if the thought of cripples buying things online offends you so much. But don’t whimper if you’re too lazy, too arrogant or too complacent to learn how to do your job properly.

What was it Molly was saying about the new Professionalism?

But what the fuck do I know? As someone with a disability, I’ve evidently no right to an opinion. In fact, I’d better log off now; I shouldn’t be using a computer at all, and anyway it’s time to put on my Village Idiot costume and start drooling while the local children throw things at me and call me a Spastic – just like they did in the Good Old Days.


Update 1 March 06: I’d like to point out that SitePoint are splendid people, purveyor of good books (a couple of which I’ve reviewed), and while they don’t endorse the views on their discussion forums, they very rightly choose not to censor them.

Update 29 August 06. Chris Beasley accuses me of “socialist leanings”, and froths so much that he forgets the rules of syntax and punctuation. Bless.

September 2006: update on legal action.

30 Responses to “ The webdev community’s response to the Target Lawsuit ”

Comment by goodwitch

(handing you your favorite brew) ahhhhh Bruce, ’tis sad. But remember…that you could consider narrow-mindedness as a quasi-disability as well. I’ll admit the comments you’ve pointed out do make my blood boil, so instead of counting to 10, sometimes I have to count to 100.

And trying my best to be optimistic…inaccurate comments like “the internet is not made for blind people” are like a door openning. I see just enough room to slip the toe of my boot in and smile and say something sweet like….”Gee, do you realize that Google is blind?”

Comment by Olly

Wow indeed.

I started reading through that whole thread and within four posts I was sinking into despair. I was getting really quite angry by about 20 posts in.

Then I hit “I still dont get it. How is an ATL-text going to be usfull so someone that cant see it?” and… Well, it left me speechless. These people make money by building websites. It’s absolutely incredible.

I was sat behind you at the AJAX thing on Friday BTW.

Comment by Isofarro

I’m amazed by all the technological advances that have recently been made. For instance, non-crappy screenreaders apparently can extract all the relevant information from an image and render that to the user. That is an astonishing step I never believed possible (neither do the AI people, after decades of effort). Imagine – images are no longer a barrier to blind people!!!!!

We laugh at the braille embossed drive-through ATMs in the states. Apparently in American cars only the driver can access the ATM. I can only take this to mean that American cars don’t have back seats anymore – I wonder why?

Also, its great seeing businesses standing up to their customers – they “reserve” that right. Its fascinating that “We don’t want your kind around here” is acceptable today – people speaking their minds. Perhaps if companies would ditch their politically correct statements of “diverse equality”, and told people straight out – “we don’t want your kind here”, then we would have a nice clear marker about where people will allow us to go, and where people don’t want us. Heaven help us if we offend those decent American-dream living folk.

P.S. Those decent American folk can’t even read in the dark. *lol*.

(Sarcasm intended. Please read the quoted bits in a Southern US drawl – in the pre-civil war time).

In short, I’m apalled by the total ignorance of the typical commenters on Sitepoint, Dvorak’s column, CNet, Molly’s blog. They don’t even know the barest details of what is required, and frankly they seem adamant to keep it that way.

The one highlight for me is Joe Clark’s comment on feather’s blog – it gets to the heart of the legislative matter: http://www.boxofchocolates.ca/archives/2006/02/09/taking-aim-at-target-dot-com#comment-4247

Its curious how if you change the word “disabled” for the word “black” in their arguments, how quickly people get upset at the “moronic comparison”. What’s that quote: “People who do not know their own history are doomed to repeat it”?

Comment by Matt Machell

It’s sad that six years after 508, there’s still this undercurrent of “not our responsibility” attitude.

It’s crazy. Why would a commercial venture not want their product to reach the maximum possible audience?

-Matt

Comment by Dan

It may be a blessing in disguise to have these idiotic views so openly expressed. The more aware those commissioning websites are of the existence of bottom feeders in the web development community, the more likely they are to ask the right questions to ensure they avoid them.

Comment by Karl

Gob-smacked here to be honest. Not so much by the fact that a commercial site is inaccessible but more by the number of ignorant and discriminatory commenting being made by dinosaur developers and the generally uninformed alike.

I hope to see Target.com become accessible in the first instance but I also hope that this is a shot across the bows for the web charlatans out there that help perpetuate this crap because they see no economic or personal benefit from it.

Comment by Isofarro

Karl, unfortunately these amateur developers will do nothing if the Target.com case fizzles into a settlement. What’s needed is for Target to be complete imbeciles and their interest in taking it right through the courts. If the NFB are successful and win the case on its merits, then the amateurs will have to realise they are neck deep in trouble.

Anything other than a complete victory will leave a hazy area of compliance. This is a perfect test case – lets hope Target are oblivious to its importance.

I expect Target will back down – the evidence we’ve seen over the last few days show they are making accessibility corrections across the site.

The work we need to do is keep discrediting the rhetoric and ignorant arguments, and not let them remain unchallenged. Bottom feeders thrive when discussion is absent.

Comment by Jim

Hmmm, wasn’t the last example of an unregulated, free-market economy, in the United States, the slave trade? I suppose, to a libertarian, it’s been nothing but rampant government interference in the oiled wheels of capitalism ever since.

If the NFB win, will Target create an accessible site, or just pay lip service to section 508 to avoid a lawsuit?

Comment by Chris Beasley

Way to overreact and take things out of context bub. No one is persecuting you or disabled people in general.

Some of us simply believe the appropriate way to handle this would be to not shop at Target, organize a boycott of Target, etc.

The fact is, everyone has choices. A wheelchair bound person cannot use the stairs, and if stairs and a ramp are side by side he should use the ramp. If he uses the stairs and fails he has no right to sue anyone over it, it was his own dumb decision.

Not every option works for every person, it is not, in my opinion, too much to ask all people, disabled or not, to try to use the path of least resistance when accomplishing things.

Now this fellow did not use the path of least resistance. Other accessible websites sell the same products as Target. You can also shop at the thousands of Target locations nationwide. He could have telephoned the company for assistance as well. There exist a myriad of options, and he chose the most difficult one. Not because he needed to, but because he wanted to prove a point and get a payday.

So he asks Target to change their website and to buy him off, basically blackmailing them. When they refuse to pay up he sues.

You’re a web designer (apparently) you see this as about web standards and accessibility. I’m a business owner, I see this as yet another greed driven lawsuit when simple market economics (don’t shop at stores that don’t treat you well) would have worked.

So don’t be all defensive, no one is rounding up the disabled and sending them to camps.

One final thing. If Target had no website, just a brick & mortar store, they wouldn’t be getting sued. Seems silly when you think about it, this lawsuit is saying that either you need to have a perfect website, or no website at all. Not really the best way to encourage innovation and accessibility I think.

Comment by Isofarro

“No one is persecuting you or disabled people in general.”

Its a death by a thousand papercuts. One papercut isn’t enough to kill you, but when a thousand different people each give you a paper cut, the accumulated effect causes death.

“organize a boycott of Target”

Boycott something you are prevented from using in the first place? Remember, target derive no income from preventing blind people from using their website (as far as I am aware). So they lose nothing.

“it is not, in my opinion, too much to ask all people, disabled or not, to try to use the path of least resistance when accomplishing things.”

The NFB spent 10 months talking with Target – using your so-called path of least resistance. Target snuffled that one by rejected their request. So the next step is logical and jusitified.

“Now this fellow did not use the path of least resistance. “

Actually he did. Target fixing their website involves a small piece of work, and the knock-on effect of making these changes is zero degradation for non-disabled people, and a site that works, and can be independently used by vision-impaired people. There is no option that is cheaper and quicker and less problematic for Target.

“I see this as yet another greed driven lawsuit when simple market economics (don’t shop at stores that don’t treat you well) would have worked.”

This is a human-rights issue. Human rights supercedes the free market (well, it does in free democracies).

“no one is rounding up the disabled and sending them to camps”

Yet the common response is “move along” and “go somewhere else”. You know full well when a blind person gets to the last option on that list and finds that failing, the justification will be “well everyone’s doing it”. Just not good enough.

“Seems silly when you think about it, this lawsuit is saying that either you need to have a perfect website, or no website at all.”

No-one is asking for perfection. The suit addresses three or four barriers that make it impossible for vision impaired people to access. The suit asks they in particular be removed. It adds no requirement that a site has to be perfect.

“Not really the best way to encourage innovation and accessibility I think.”

Innovation and accessibiity are not mutually exclusive.

Comment by Jim

One final thing. If Target had no website, just a brick & mortar store, they wouldn’t be getting sued.

If the brick & mortar store lacked a wheelchair ramp, for example, wouldn’t they still be in contravention of Californian state law?

Seems silly when you think about it, this lawsuit is saying that either you need to have a perfect website, or no website at all.

Nah, it’s just saying your website should meet WAI level A, which is pretty basic stuff. I mean, this is HTML, not rocket science.

Comment by Bruce

Chris Beasley: The other comments have shown your factual errors (Sexton just wants to get rich; a bricks and mortar store is exempt from the ADA; accessibility is “all or nothing”), so I won’t comment further.

But you say

Way to overreact and take things out of context bub. No one is persecuting you or disabled people in general.

Given that you seemed to suggest that people with disabilities were not worth educating, it sounds like you are denigrating disabled people. And I take exception to that.

But let’s agree to disagree.

Comment by Chris Beasley

I didn’t mean they weren’t worth educating.

I was trying to illustrate how people let political correctness overrule common sense.

Here in the US mentally retarded kids are sent to the same highschools as the college bound. They require personal aids in order to make it through the day. This means it costs 10x more per year for them than it does for normal students.

These down syndrome kids do not learn anything useful. They finger paint, draw, and get picked on by jocks. They wouldn’t care if the were in a normal highschool or a special school, they wouldn’t know the difference.

The people who do know the difference are the parents, and they insist that their children are no different than anyone else and deserve to go to the same schools despite it being a huge waste of tax payer dollars.

If money grew on trees this wouldn’t be a big deal, but unfortunately it doesn’t and with budget shortfalls people need to stop being so politically correct.

Now obviously the mentally disabled are different from the physically disabled. I feel strongly that the physically disabled, even those who cannot communicate well because of their handicap, should be educated. Afterall their mind is what they’ll likely rely on in life for income.

However I also believe that the most respectful way to treat a physically disabled person is to treat them as anyone else. That means no special treatment, no coddling, no hand holding. Don’t assume that just because they are disabled that they cannot do things for themselves or make their own decisions.

Boycott something you are prevented from using in the first place? Remember, target derive no income from preventing blind people from using their website (as far as I am aware). So they lose nothing.

I wouldn’t imagine it’d be only the blind people boycotting. But friends, family, people who read a press release he could have sent out, etc.

Comment by Bruce

Gah.. I tried really really hard not to feed the troll, but have to reply …

Chris, you say

These down syndrome kids do not learn anything useful. They finger paint, draw, and get picked on by jocks. They wouldn’t care if the were in a normal highschool or a special school, they wouldn’t know the difference.

I spent a while teaching kids with Down Syndrome. I held classes on personal hygiene; how to use a microwave oven; read the instructions on packets of food; use an ATM, contact the emergency services, use contraception, apply for jobs. Some – not all, not many, but some – of my students ended up living independently and working (in real jobs, not special governmentally-created jobs). All learned something useful.

I therefore humbly suggest, Chris, that you are talking out of your arse.

Comment by Derek Featherstone

Chris Beasley said:

I also believe that the most respectful way to treat a physically disabled person is to treat them as anyone else

Chris – thanks for this. It is exactly what this law suit is about. Its about providing those that are blind with the same opportunities as those that are sighted.

You also mention in your earlier comment:

Some of us simply believe the appropriate way to handle this would be to not shop at Target

Right – and shop somewhere else. We’ve heard this argument over and over again, but it always fails. Why? Its very simple really – what if all of the other sites aren’t accessible either? Then what? If Target isn’t held accountable for accessibility, then why would any of the other online shops?

Comment by 456 Berea Street

Target sued for refusing to make their website accessible

US based discount retailer Target has disregarded requests for making their website accessible and are now being sued.

Comment by jimbo

So I’m a day late and a dollar short, but what else is new…I just stumbled on this whole thing. I’m appalled.

I’ve got a word for Chris Beasley:
Dumbass.

Comment by Helen

A simple example came to my mind. Why don’t I sue someone for not being able to get in their home? Of course it’s not the same thing, but anyway we develop sites and we have the right to do anything we want with it!

Comment by Bruce

It depends, Helen. It’s about professionalism. To my mind, professionalism means ensuring that your client’s sites conform with the laws of the country that they work in. In the UK (where I am) it is illegal to have a business and not allow disabled access to it. It is similarly illegal to have a website that is inaccessible.

Of course, there are many so-called design shops that do not protect their clients from legal risk, either because they are too lazy, or have not bothered to learn the correct way to build sites. Most people agree that people who don’t keep up to speed with developments in their industry are – by definition – not professionals.

What do you think?

Comment by patrick h. lauke

it’s cute to see that our friend mr beasley just recently felt the need to restate how strongly he stands by insightful comments such as:

“Here in the US we spend 10x more per year to send one disabled kid to a normal highschool than we spend on the smartest kid in that highschool. Then we wonder why our kids aren’t as smart as those from other countries. Chances are the disabled kid probably doesn’t even know the difference, its only so his parents can feel their kid is normal.”

http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2498271&postcount=59

and it’s also nice to see that he doesn’t take criticism lightly, as he proceeded to IP block me and removed my comment on http://www.websitepublisher.net/blog/2006/08/28/sitepoint-lawsuits-and-internet-accessibility/ … cute.

Comment by Wild Ted

I just read Mr Beasley’s post and apart from his views on disabled people, he also has some strange ideas on economics. He states:

“What do you think capitalism is? The overall founding principle of the US economy was a free market without government interference. So who exactly are you calling ignorant?”

I am, perhaps a little unusually, a web designer with a degree in economic history (London School of Economics, 1999). Mr Beasley seems to have swallowed hook, line and sinker the Reagan era propaganda on (so called) free markets. In a nutshell, in capitalist countries, economic freedoms absolutely depend on government “interference” in a multitude of ways from the provision of a legal system to guaranteeing the value of the currency. There is no such thing as a free market, not in the US or anywhere else – only relatively free ones.

Comment by John D

Heads up, Bruce; the NFB won this lawsuit, it was announced a few days ago, and you’re #1 on Google for “Target 508 lawsuit.”

But at least the standard wingnut talking points have been addressed here. My own workplace is in heated argument along much these same lines…

Comment by JD Kraaikamp

One thing I’ve discovered about accessible websites: they’re actually easier to code. Of course, I do everything by text editor, but seriously, it’s honestly a cinch.

Okay, a blind person is not gonna see the nice background I came used, nor the layout of the page, but that person will be able to easily READ it.

And that is the point.

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