National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corporation

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National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corporation is a current class action lawsuit in the United States that was filed in February 7, 2006 in California Superior Court. It is a controversial legal case that challenges whether the limitations that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 imposes on businesses must also apply to e-commerce websites. The plaintiff, National Federation of the Blind (NFB), is suing Target Corporation, a national retail chain, claiming that blind people are unable to access much of the information on the defendant's website, nor purchase anything from its website independently.[1]

This suit traces its roots to May 2005, when the NFB wrote to Target Corporation, asking for it to make its website accessible to people who are blind. The NFB claimed to Target Corporation that its website can be made 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 easier 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 Corporation started negotiating in May, however the NFB claims that these negotiations lasted until January 2006. On February 7, 2006, the NFB sued Target Corporation, claiming that its website violated the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Disabled Persons Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.[1]

Target Corporation has asked for this case to be dismissed, claiming that 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." 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 Corporation has 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 Corporation argues that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is 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 California federal court ruled in support of the claim that certain online retailers must provide access to the disabled. The court certified a class action against Target Corporation on behalf of blind Internet customers throughout the country. [National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corp. (N.D. Cal October 2, 2007), No. C 06-1802 MHP.] The court previously denied Target’s motion to dismiss and upheld the Plaintiff's (National Federation of the Blind (or “NFB”) argument that websites like must be accessible to the blind under both California law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

After vigorous prosecution and defense motions, in September, 2008, the parties reached settlement on the injunctive relief that included further changes to be made to the website and related policies, and the establishment of a $6,000,000 settlement fund to compensate members of the California subclass. The parties also agreed that defendant would pay plaintiffs’ reasonable attorneys fees and litigation costs in an amount to be determined by the court. On August 3, 2009, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued her order awarding $3,738,864.96 in attorney’s fees and costs to the Plaintiffs. That award is, of course, in addition to the $6,000,0000 settlement fund funded by Target. 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.”

See also


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