August 28, 2008 (Computerworld) Target Corp. has agreed to a $6 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed in early 2006 by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and others charging that blind people cannot access Target.com.
As part of the settlement announced yesterday, Target will establish a $6 million fund from which plaintiffs can make claims. In addition, Target also agreed to update the site to accommodate sight-impaired online consumers, and to let the NFB regularly test those improvements once they are completed early next year.
According to the settlement, Target must ensure that blind Target.com users running screen-reader software can obtain the same information and perform the same transactions as all other users. Target also agreed to provide periodic training sessions for its Web developers and a quarterly summary of complaints received about accessibility to the NFB, the settlement noted.
The plaintiffs in the case — which also included the NFB of California and a blind college student Bruce Sexton — claimed that Target’s Web site was inaccessible and in violation of federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Experts have said that this case may serve to expand the scope of how disability laws affect Web sites.
“The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to have reached a settlement with Target that is good for all blind consumers, and we recognize that Target has already taken action to make certain that its Web site is accessible to everyone,” said Marc Maurer, president of the NFB, in a statement.
“We look forward to working with Target in the coming months to help make additional improvements that will enhance the experience of blind visitors to Target.com. It is our sincere hope that other businesses providing goods and services over the Internet will follow Target’s example,” Maurer added.
Steve Eastman, president of Target.com, said in a statement that as the company’s online business has evolved, the company has made “significant enhancements” to provide an accessible shopping experience. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the NFB regarding the accessibility of Target.com for individuals who use assistive technologies and will work with the NFB on further refinements to our Web site,” he added.
H. Scott Leviant, an attorney who handles class-action lawsuits and who writes The Complex Litigator blog, noted that the Target settlement should help bring the question of how the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to Web sites “into focus.” He suggested that owners of commerce Web sites quickly make them accessible to visually impaired persons.
“Other companies have decided to avoid litigation (probably to foster more goodwill with consumers),” he added. “Following Target’s settlement, I think it is likely that online retailers can expect a rapid surge in litigation of this type.”