Blind Web Surfers Sue Target for Access
Retailers are required by law to make special accommodations for the disabled in their stores. The same, say groups such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), should apply to retailers’ e-commerce sites. That is the crux of a lawsuit brought by the NFB against Target.
Target’s position, conversely, is that its web site is not subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act and that it was “committed to providing an online experience that is accessible to all of our guests. Despite the lawsuit brought forward by the National Federation of the Blind, we have always and will continue to implement new technologies to our Web site.”
Still, the NFB says Target.com is inaccessible to the visually impaired and it needs to make use of technology that converts text on a web page to voiced messages. The same software enables the blind to surf the web through commands understood by their computers.
Chris Danielsen, a blind man who developed a screen-reading software program called Jaws, told The Associated Press, “The blind have more access to information than they ever had in history – but that’s only true to the extent that Web accessibility is maintained. The technology is out there, and we don’t need barriers to be put in our way. Give us a way in.”
Retailers are not trying to lock anyone out, according to Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org. “It’s a very fast-moving environment. Retailers want to serve all their customers, including blind people,” he said.
While the case between the NFB and Target plays out, there are other retailers already setting up sites to be accessible to the blind.
Kelly Groehler, a spokesperson for Best Buy, told The Associated Press, the company has made changes to code the site to make it compatible with screen-reading software. “We’re trying to be proactive here,” she said.
Amy Colella, a spokesperson for Walmart.com, said that company’s web site is “reasonably accessible” to the blind.
Discussion Questions: Should e-commerce sites be subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act? Does the speed of technological innovation mean software
such as screen-reading programs will always be trying to catch up with e-commerce sites? How would this scenario play out in practical terms for the merchant and blind shoppers
using its e-commerce site?
- Blind Web Surfers Sue for Accessibility – The Associated
Press/The Washington Post (free reg. required)