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News: Judge refuses to limit ADA to physical premises

Bruce Sexton and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) tried to persuade Target.com (which is “powered by amazon.com”) to make its website accessible (you couldn’t navigate it with a keyboard, and missing alt text meant shopping was impossible).

Target refused, so Sexton sued. Target asked the judge to throw it out, on the grounds that there were no laws requiring websites to be accessible.

The NFB reports,

The court held: “the ‘ordinary meaning’ of the ADA’s prohibition against discrimination in the enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges, is that whatever goods or services the place provides, it cannot discriminate on the basis of disability in providing enjoyment of those goods and services.” The court thus rejected Target’s argument that only its physical store locations were covered by the civil rights laws, ruling instead that all services provided by Target, including its Web site, must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

“I hope that I can soon shop online at Target.com just like anyone else,” said 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 websites are accessible.”

I imagine that a lot of big U.S. retailers will be examining their websites tomorrow …

Related: Outlaw has a proper legal analysis. ‘Cos they’re lawyers. WebAIM write it up.

9 Responses to “ News: Judge refuses to limit ADA to physical premises ”

Comment by Jared Smith

Now wait a second. While this ruling indicates that U.S. discrimination laws DO apply to web sites, it does not yet give ANY requirements that Target or anybody else implement accessibility. It simply says that the lawsuit can continue and won’t be thrown out like Target wanted. Target claimed that the law didn’t apply to their website. The judge disagreed. Whether Target will be found in violation of those laws and will have to do anything about their dispicable site is yet to be determined.

Regardless, this ruling provides an important clarification. We’ve wondered for a long time whether the ADA applies to the web. This, in part, answers that question. But that’s about all it does. Even then, it should get the attention of a lot of businesses.

Comment by Bruce

Indeed it was Alastair. And, unfortunately, it might also mean that a lot of businesses have a look at their website and decide they don’t care.

In the U.S. there’s been a lot of umm-ing and ah-ing about whether the ADA applies to the Web; this shows it probably does.

However, in the UK, we’ve known that the DDA applies to the Web, and still even our own government has bad sites.

Comment by AlastairC

It may not be that simple, Joe has read the actual ruling, and found that:

NFB didn’t win the case and might lose it. All that happened was that a motion to dismiss the whole thing failed.
The ADA has not been definitively ruled to include Web sites, let alone commercial Web sites.
Target, after submitting a seriously half-arsed expert-witness assessment, managed to find several screen-reader users who could operate the site just fine. It does indeed seem open to dispute that the site is inaccessible to blind people.

Comment by Nick Cowie

What got me was the following on Joe’s blog

the nondisclosure agreement I entered into with Target.

So I take it he has been hired as an expert witness for the defense along with the three skilled screen reader users.

Which is good that Target are finally taking this matter seriously.

Comment by Bruce

Note: I was re-reading my story above, wondering how people were reading that I was erronoeously saying that Target had lost.

It was the title that’s misleading, so I changed it.

Comment by Jared Smith

> It was the title that’s misleading, so I changed it.

Yeah, that’s what my previous comment was about. The heading of the NFB press release states, “precedent establishes that retailers must make their websites accessible to the blind under the ADA” and this is more misleading and pretty much a flat out lie, in my opinion. I contacted the NFB contact and he says they stand by it. From Joe’s post, it looks like a bunch of legal spin is being applied to this on both sides.

Comment by JNagarya

“Comment by Jared Smith
> It was the title that’s misleading, so I changed it.

Yeah, that’s what my previous comment was about. The heading of the NFB press release states, “precedent establishes that retailers must make their websites accessible to the blind under the ADA” and this is more misleading and pretty much a flat out lie, in my opinion.”

It’s a press release. The purpose of press release — a form of advertising — is to “sell” one’s virtues. From that perspective, which is realistic, it isn’t a lie. Overstatement? Isn’t that the same as “advertising”?

“I contacted the NFB contact and he says they stand by it. From Joe’s post, it looks like a bunch of legal spin is being applied to this on both sides.”

“I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you, to see legal ‘spin’ going on in the middle of the legal community!”

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