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Class Action Suit: Blind vs Target


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#1 rmccarley

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 02:31 AM

http://www.nbc11.com...385/detail.html

Target is getting sued by the National Federation of the Blind because their site is gibberish in audio browsers. If (when?) the blind win this will have a big impact on every major company with a web site.

I just don't understand why developers are too lazy/cheap to get the basic compliance factors in order. Last I heard 8% of Internet users have a visual disability.

I'm generally a conservative republican capitolist but this is just stupid.

Er... IMO :P

BTW, I've followed the W3C recomendations but know there are others as well. Any suggestions on basic rules we *should* be following? Any test browsers out there that don't cost a bundle?

#2 AbleReach

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 04:33 AM

The NBC article says

The lawsuit alleges that Target's Web site, Target.com, fails to include features such as an invisible code embedded beneath images that would enable blind customers to use the screen-reading software.



This San Francisco Chronicle article, Blind Cal student sues Target, says

Advocates for the blind said the lawsuit is a shot across the bow for retailers, newspapers and others who have Web sites the blind cannot use. They chose Target because of its popularity and because of a large number of complaints by blind patrons.


...Target's site lacks "alt-text," an invisible code embedded beneath a graphic on the Web site that a screen reader could use to provide a description of the image to a blind person, the suit said.



Img alt attributes are NOT rocket science. No special software is required - a little awareness, maybe, but no mysterious techno gizmos. They're an excellent choice for that "warning shot across the bow."

Elizabeth

#3 Adrian

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 05:34 AM

I hope something actually comes of this, we need a proper case to go all the way to set things out for everyone else.

#4 JohnMu

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 06:41 AM

I wonder how foreign websites fit into that picture ... is it based on the company location (eg sites start moving the web-rights to an offshore-sister), webserver location (eg sites start moving to other hosters) or even based on "customer" location (eg foreign sites start blocking US IPs to avoid legal hassles)?

With the web as international as it is, I have a hard time making out how this case could influence my web-presences (of course other than the fact that I do use alt-texts anyway :-)).

John

#5 projectphp

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 07:43 AM

I too hope something "comes" of this. and by "something" I mean clearly stated absolute guidelines. So much is wishy washy, IMHO, and not enough is ever taught in schools, and that is an absolute crime.

#6 fisicx

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 09:28 AM

I remember reading an article about the use of tables. Screen readers read tables logically each row at a time. If you use tables for structure you end up hearing gibberish as the reader follows the logical structure of the table.

So it is more than just using alt text, it is about the order in which information is displayed, the use of relevant anchor text, the use of headers and so on.

Get Bobby approved.

Incidently, in the school where I teach, the pupils are taught to use tables for structure and JS for navigation!

#7 bragadocchio

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 09:48 AM

I asked myself, how bad can it be. Even Whitehouse.gov has some accessibility issues that really shouldn't be there.

So, I ran a WCAG 1.0 check on the Target site.

The accessibility issues are mostly missing alt text, table layouts, and use of javascript menus. There are over 200 accessibility errors according to the test I ran though.

If they went so far as to include null alt text for spacer gifs, they would eliminate most of those problems.

#8 kensplace

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 09:54 AM

Without using a screen reader, so hard to know for sure, I would imagine people could sue sites that

Use flash
Use microsoft components
Use Java Components
Use any component thats non-standard HTML etc
Rely on toolbars for navigation

Probably also, many sites that rely on any new technology, as screen readers will be behind the times compared to browsers and plugins.


Does anyone have a list of exactly what a screen reader does support? What user agent they supply?

Edited by kensplace, 09 February 2006 - 09:54 AM.


#9 Adrian

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 11:58 AM

Screen reader support is a fairly grey area, Access Matters has made some attempt at seeing what kind of things screen readers do and don't read, and how they go about it.

#10 rmccarley

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 12:02 PM

When I saw the sory on the news last night they were using an audio browser on the Target site. It was complete gibberish.

I know following the W3C guidelines is a good bare minimum (which I always incorperate) but how the code is set up, including text alternates for special features, etc. I'd really like to test my sites to see how they come out.

I've looked at Bobby. So much is speculation and interpretation with that. I really wasn't impressed.

#11 cre8pc

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 02:28 PM

The thing is, there is no law that says Target must be accessibility compliant. There is, however, Section 508 in the USA that requires all .gov sites be compliant.

There is a similar law in the UK as well, which I think is more far reaching than the US version.

Logic says that if Target wants special needs customers to be able to access their site, the seeing impaired, deaf, those who can't use a mouse, etc etc, than designing to meet their needs is in order.

That they don't, is surprising, but I don't think they've broken a law. The two California laws mentioned don't ring any bells for me as including web sites.

As much as I'm happy to see attention on the matter and I'm supportive of disabled end users rights, I can't help but wonder if the end user(s) behind the lawsuit contacted Target to alert them there was a problem. This is not a stupid company. I find it hard to believe that they would ignore user feedback. Blind people can write and use phones. (I use blind visitors as the example since they are the ones noted in the news article.)

#12 rmccarley

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 03:20 PM

There tends to be this division between brick and mortar businesses and their online counterparts that is really counter productive. There are laws that state businesses of a certain size must accomodate both employees and customers with certain disabilities. I don't see why those wouldn't apply online.

#13 cre8pc

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 03:42 PM

I don't see why those wouldn't apply online.


Agreed. Education is surely needed so that anyone coding pages carries out certain things out of habit, such as alt attributes.

Table-less CSS is probably viewed as being difficult but again, once one spends a little time learning this stuff, its not that hard to do.

Ideally, there shouldn't need to be a law to enforce such logic and courtesy as being accessible, but sadly, it seems as though it will come to that.

#14 rmccarley

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Posted 11 February 2006 - 02:54 AM

I had to reinstall FF and find my extensions. Turns out there are a couple extensions for disability testing!

http://cita.disabili...ftware/mozilla/
http://www.tawdis.net/taw3/cms/en

Also, if you have the validator installed there's an option for disability checking.

#15 travis

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Posted 11 February 2006 - 03:49 AM

The thing is, there is no law that says Target must be accessibility compliant.


Exactly. Where do you stop ? At what level will this association stop hassling the worlds 10 billion websites ?

I think the law suit is more of an embarrassment to Target rather than anything else.

I am all for use of the internet for the blind, but this is not the appropriate channel to get these problems rectified.

#16 AbleReach

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Posted 11 February 2006 - 04:45 AM

The thing is, there is no law that says Target must be accessibility compliant. There is, however, Section 508 in the USA that requires all .gov sites be compliant.

If wheelchair-accessible bathrooms are legally required in public places like restaurants, what's to say that some level of screen reader access shouldn't be required online?

About 24% of Christmas sales happened online last year. That's 24% of sales coming from shoppers who made their way through digital doors that should be accessible to the digital version of wheelchairs, just like in the brick and mortar world.

Imagine sites that refuse access to Opera or FireFox, or Mac users - not just sites that break, but sites that selectively do not give enough info to tell what the site is doing. What an uproar that would cause!


Elizabeth

Edited by AbleReach, 11 February 2006 - 04:46 AM.


#17 kensplace

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Posted 11 February 2006 - 04:53 AM

The thing is, there is no law that says Target must be accessibility compliant. There is, however, Section 508 in the USA that requires all .gov sites be compliant.

If wheelchair-accessible bathrooms are legally required in public places like restaurants, what's to say that some level of screen reader access shouldn't be required online?

About 24% of Christmas sales happened online last year. That's 24% of sales coming from shoppers who made their way through digital doors that should be accessible to the digital version of wheelchairs, just like in the brick and mortar world.

Imagine sites that refuse access to Opera or FireFox, or Mac users - not just sites that break, but sites that selectively do not give enough info to tell what the site is doing. What an uproar that would cause!
Elizabeth

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Kim mentioned the UK Law, UK shop sites have to be accessible, just like a shop has to allow disabled access, they have to allow for disabled users on the web, not just blind either, even mental problems. Countless sites break that law, but I dont know of any one that has prosecuted using that law yet, but Im not a lawyer. The whole area is fairly vague, not much in the way of past cases for people to go on.

Problem is, if one person sues, then the floodgates may open, and the vultures will jump in, and instead of personal injury claims, it will be sue the pants of websites claims....

#18 AbleReach

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Posted 11 February 2006 - 05:57 AM

Countless sites break that law, but I dont know of any one that has prosecuted using that law yet, but Im not a lawyer. The whole area is fairly vague, not much in the way of past cases for people to go on.

So what's next?
Clearer guidelines, at least.

The USA has a way of generating noise and public debate. Maybe we're about to see squeaky wheels get more attention.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more attention paid to accessible sites, by now. Maybe wider availability of Internet access is spurring action.

This is one case I don't want to lose track of.

Elizabeth

#19 rmccarley

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Posted 11 February 2006 - 06:43 PM

Elizabeth (is it me or do I reply to *all* your posts?) - I think the browser wars and poor implementation of W3C standards slowed down progress for ensuring the disabled were taken care of online. And the Internet wasn't considered a necesity but that is changing fast.

I really think this is a non-issue. Of course you should support the disabled because it's the right thing to do. Need a "business" reason? How about the 8% of your market that is going somewhere else.

But I think the problem is deeper. Just like most businesses don't understand that web web site needs to be SEO-frindly to get the most from their promotion efforts, they also don't know that the code could be blocking sales. In other words, this hasn't been an issue for most businesses simply because they didn't know it would be. And that falls on us as developers to educate the clients about how their site will be built and what that means to them and their customers. Most developers I know do a damn lousy job of this because coding to even the W3C standards takes too long or is a pain. Well it's also more work, it's easy to do and that means more money for you.

IMHO there is no good excuse to go around this.

#20 cre8pc

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Posted 11 February 2006 - 07:26 PM

My friend Matt Bailey has a good post with comments on this:

Target = New Lawsuit

He had the same initial reaction I did, in that the lawsuit was extreme when perhaps contacting Target to discuss this civily would have been the better choice.

However, as he learned, and I'll share here, Target WAS contacted and has continued to ignore requests to do something as simple as alt attributes.

So, this obvious lack of being responsive to customers has escalated for them.

While I'm all for accessbility on all sites, I can tell you that most of my ecommerce clients are not compliant and management (stakeholders) aren't interested in meeting accessbility standards or even basic needs for online accessbility. When I introduce the idea, its often met with confusion and sometimes a "Why do I need to do that" response.

There are too many available tools online nowadays that can be used to check.

Some of you may not have seen this nice resource:

Developing sites for users with Cognitive disabilities and learning difficulties

#21 rmccarley

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Posted 11 February 2006 - 08:38 PM

Reasons to make sure your site meets a minimum standard for the disabled:

1. It's the right thing to do
2. It widen's your potential visitors
3. It's a competitive advantage as most sites don't do it
4. You can promote it (the company that cares...)
5. It's a very small investment (much less than even basic SEO) with a large potential return
6. It's the law in some countries
7. It's required for some sites (.gov)
8. You won't get sued like Target

#22 StormSF

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 08:12 PM

You guys may want to check out Section508: the legal accessibility compliance required of US Government agencies.

Excellent whitepaper for web complience can be found here:
http://www.actuate.c...mplianceTWP.pdf

Cheers!

#23 sandpetra

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 06:16 AM

The fact they were asked to change the site and didnt shows an ignorance and a lack of understanding or decency on behalf of Target - and stupidity. Did they sack their web team?



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