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Try Inclusion Daily Express for ten days FREE . . . Accessibility Case Will Have Nation-wide Impact
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 3, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA--A federal judge has granted class action in a case that could help people with vision-related disabilities across the country and elsewhere to better access Internet websites.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled that the suit against Target Corporation could represent the class of all blind Internet users in the United States. The suit alleges that is not accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Patel also ruled that the case could represent blind Californians because it alleges that violates the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.

"This is a tremendous step forward for blind people throughout the country who for too long have been denied equal access to the Internet economy," said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, in a press statement. "All e-commerce businesses should take note of this decision and immediately take steps to open their doors to the blind."

The nonprofit law firm Disability Rights Advocates filed the suit on behalf of blind UC Berkeley student Bruce Sexton, Jr. and the National Federation of the Blind of California.

Specifically, the plaintiffs said the website lacked "alt text" tags, which are words that can be written into webpage code along with graphic images so that computerized screen readers can describe those images out loud to blind web surfers. The website also lacked image maps, which allow blind users to move to different places on the site, and required users to use a mouse to complete any transaction, which means that they must have a sighted person help them.

"Target Corporation has led a battle against blind consumers in a key area of modern life: the Internet economy," said Larry Paradis of Disability Rights Advocates. "The court's decision today makes clear that people with disabilities no longer can be treated as second-class citizens in any sphere of mainstream life. This ruling will benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans with disabilities."

Target's lawyers had asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the federal and state civil rights laws only apply to physical premises and not the Internet.

The suit asked the court to force Target to stop violating the laws, to declare that Target was operating its website in a manner that discriminated against users who are blind or have vision-related disabilities, and to pay damages to the plaintiffs.

"Suit may spur greater Web access for blind" (Los Angeles Times)
Text of complaint: "National Federation of the Blind v. Target" (Alameda County Superior Court)

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