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Web Accessibility Gets a Boost In California Court 283

Posted by kdawson
from the as-california-goes dept.
The Register is reporting on developments in a California court case pitting blind users against the retailer Target over the lack of accessibility of Target.com. (We discussed the matter on two occasions last year.) The case is being brought under a federal statute, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and two California laws that are somewhat broader. Even though Target has made improvements to the site since losing the first phase in court, the judge has just ruled that the case is eligible for class-action status. The end result could be mandated accessibility for for all Web sites reachable by visually impaired users in California.
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Web Accessibility Gets a Boost In California Court

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  • acronyms. (Score:4, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:09AM (#20971809) Homepage
    The Register is reporting on developments in a California court case pitting blind users against the retailer Target over the lack of accessibility of Target.com.

    That's they get for using a WYSIWYG editor to make their website.
    • by AchiIIe (974900)
      >> That's they get for using a WYSIWYG editor to make their website.

      Ooh, wait until the plaintiffs discover this thing called flash.

      > We've hit the JACKPOT people, look at this monstrosity, you cant use if you are blind. Let's sue.

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:12AM (#20971819) Homepage
    some sites are next to hopeless to use from a usability point of view.

    Not only is the layout wildly different from site to site, but also the semantics. And sometimes the access to some services aren't in a menu at all but hidden on a specific page that you don't really think it would be.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @04:24AM (#20972071) Journal

      some sites are next to hopeless to use from a usability point of view.
      There's no way every last budget business website is getting redesigned as the result of a court case in California

      My guess is that one of the questions which will start getting asked is "how do I block visually impaired users in California?"

    • by msimm (580077) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @04:32AM (#20972109) Homepage
      I'm getting more and more tired of both the liberals and the neo/publicans and all their fucking bullshit. What ever happened to that free market shit we were fed along with the 'land of the free' garbage? If you don't like something vote with your wallet. Don't fucking sue everything that makes your life a little more difficult. No-one *has* to use Target. No-one has to use a website they don't like. I think it's fucking lazy and shows this stupid sense of entitlement we seem to feel. Instead of supporting something better we try to coerce it into being the way we'd like. How fucked up is that? That's the kind of shit you do with your government, not your fucking lawn-chair supplier. Meanwhile we stew in a broth of litigious shit as our real freedoms are sold right out from under us.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2007 @05:56AM (#20972393)
        Don't be an idiot. Do you think stores would build wheelchair ramps just to make a few extra dollars from the few people with wheelchairs who shop in their stores? Of course not. The inevitable result of the free market would be no stores having wheelchair ramps, because the market is too small to be worth it. And as a result, nobody with a wheelchair would be able to shop. We protect minority disability groups because it's more important that they be able to live life than that stores have complete and unregulated freedom to maximize their profit.

        If Target makes 0.1% more profit this year, no one gives a crap. But if one million Americans who can use a wheelchair are suddenly able to live their lives, this makes a significant difference in the world. (And yes, blindness and business websites can be considered the same as wheelchairs and physical buildings, hence the analogy.) Leave your idealistic philosophy at home and consider the real-world impact of your ideas.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by siriuskase (679431)
          In fact, the inaccessable website is even more of a problem, since, as a sighted user, I wouldn't be aware of the problem and need blind people and others to make me aware by the use of lawsuits and other communications. Lawsuits are cheaper than an ad campaign. A shopper who walks rather than rolls notices steps even if they can deal with them more easily, but I don't notice nonconforming websites unless I'm looking for problems.

          When an affected group is as small as the population of blind online shoppe
        • Most Targets are single story, ground level.

          From another vantage, consider that ultimately, you are forcing the owners of businesses to build wheelchair ramps at gunpoint. This is what you consider justice?

        • by iamacat (583406)
          I totally agree that Target should be made to both install wheelchair ramps and to have a fully accessible text-only/semantically annotated version of their website. The question is, should I be forced to do the same thing with my home business. If so, it will never take off the ground as I don't have $100K to build an elevator to my home office or make my restrooms wheelchair-accessible. Neither do I have money to hire blind or color blind to test my website or buy expensive accessibility software/hardware
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            I totally agree that Target should be made to both install wheelchair ramps and to have a fully accessible text-only/semantically annotated version of their website. The question is, should I be forced to do the same thing with my home business.

            How is it fair that they should be made to do something at great expense and inconvenience, and you should not?

            Because they have more money than you do?

            Should Bill Gates pay more for a cup of coffee at the your local diner than you pay for th
        • We are no longer talking about the war on terra. Suddenly Big Government is good when it isn't a privacy issue. Slashdotters are so inconsistent. You all get riled up about a First Amendment or other YRO issue if it is a video game or something, but forcing a corporation what is has to say on a Web site, that's fine! What a horrible example of Big Brother Government.

          FREEDOM OF CONTRACT PEOPLE. GET GOVERNMENT OUT OF OUR LIVES! LIBERTARIANISM IS NOT JUST ABOUT WIRETAPPING!

      • You might not like the way I'm expressing my opinion, but it's an opinion. That's something distinctly different then trolling and using the moderation system to quell opinion in contrast to that of your own is, aside from an idiotic form of censorship, anti-dialog. And as such instead of conversation you encourage this mass enfeebling, where dialog is constantly shifted and filtered to reflect your own ideals. The world regurgitated to you. Keep up the good work.
        • by Guppy06 (410832)
          Interesting dichotomy. You rail against a lawsuit designed to compel accessibility to their services, saying that the stores should be free to choose to cater to these people, but when moderators freely choose to reduce accessibility to your diatribe by moderating you down, you reverse yourself and demand equal respect and accessibility rather than shopping elsewhere for a more receptive audience (while denying Slashdot ad revenue by reducing its readership).

          You do your cause no credit.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Dun Malg (230075)

            Interesting dichotomy. You rail against a lawsuit designed to compel accessibility to their services, saying that the stores should be free to choose to cater to these people, but when moderators freely choose to reduce accessibility to your diatribe by moderating you down, you reverse yourself and demand equal respect and accessibility rather than shopping elsewhere for a more receptive audience (while denying Slashdot ad revenue by reducing its readership).

            You do your cause no credit.

            His "cause" is that no one should be forced to cater to the disabled at gunpoint, which is effectively what federal regulation is.

            There's nothing in that philosophy that says it's not perfectly OK to publicly call out a bunch of jackass robot-head mods for the dumbfucks that they are. In fact, it's remarkably consistent with the idea above [slashdot.org] that it would only take a few 'chair bound folks crawling into Target stores on their bellies with the media in attendance to change things. Public spectacle embarrass

            • by Guppy06 (410832)
              "There's nothing in that philosophy that says it's not perfectly OK to publicly call out a bunch of jackass robot-head mods for the dumbfucks that they are."

              He's complaining about the way certain moderators are using their mod points in the way they see fit, and doing it in such a way that denies him access to people who do not browse comments at a low enough level. Were he to follow his position, instead of complaining and insisting that others refrain from moderating him down for reasons he personally do
      • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @06:09AM (#20972431)
        I know. Let's open a white people only restaurant, and let people vote with their wallets whether they are willing to eat there.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by msimm (580077)
          And I bet your white, speaking up for the 'little' people eh? I'd say sure. Open a fucking racist restaurant. I won't go there, my friends won't go there, I won't shed a tear if the owners are harassed or otherwise have problems with business. But I don't feel obligated to run around like some moral fucking nanny. Look around you. Your not making the world a better place. Maybe it's time we stop worrying about all these little details that sap so much of our focus and actually, I don't know...do something o
          • by oddfox (685475)

            But I don't feel obligated to run around like some moral fucking nanny.

            That's really good to hear, because it sounds like you have a lot of growing up to do before anyone in their right mind would think you had any morals, judging from the ranting and raving you're doing about enforcing laws that are simply there to force companies to not ignore citizens with disabilities. These laws are in the same boat as the ones that force companies to not ignore citizens who happen to be of a certain race or ethnici

            • by msimm (580077)
              Nice try. Everything effects me. I'm destined to become old and infirm and there are not guarantees of health in the interim. But keep this in perspective. I won't cry if I found problems with the Target website, I will use and support one which supports me and I'll encourage my friends and family to do so. The state isn't here to dictate my conscience. And that's what I see we are losing when when we confuse rights with right. We end up with words, outrage without action and worse of all, complacence.
              • by oddfox (685475)

                You are about as naive as they come then, if you seriously think that a significant number of companies would willingly go out of their way to accommodate such a fraction of the market if they weren't legally obligated to. Have you never heard of anything like a Social contract/compact [wikipedia.org]?

          • As someone who will eventually go blind (genetic disorder), I disagree with you.
            This lawsuit is pretty good. It might actually make the web a better place.

            While voting with your wallet works to a certain extent, 99.9% of companies would never willingly cater to disabled people especially blind people.
            Is it really that difficult to make a website which works properly?
          • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @08:38AM (#20972975)
            Goodness. Next thing you know, you'll have us being "separate but equal". When stores or institutions as large as Target violate the ADA or practice racist or sexist policies, it affects the whole neighborhood or the whole industry.

            And yes, I wheel crippled people to restaurants and to doctor's appointments, I've taught blind and deaf relatives both practical matters and technical ones. Failure to make reasonable concessions to accessibility cuts them off from social, economic, and political opportunities. It's penny wise and pound foolish: a store as large as Target, which dominates the commerce in entire towns or neighborhoods, bears a legal and social responsibility to serve that entire community.
          • by krunk7 (748055)

            Maybe it's time we stop worrying about all these little details that sap so much of our focus and actually, I don't know...do something of value.

            Maybe because the last time we tried that an entire race of people were enslaved and oppressed. And before you suggest that we oh so much more enlightened now, try and remember that the same folks who perpetrated these crimes against humanity are still alive and well. Some are even in positions of power in our country.

            Fortunately, there are also a fair represe

        • I know. Let's open a white people only restaurant, and let people vote with their wallets whether they are willing to eat there.


          You're joking, but [wikipedia.org].
          • What made you think I was kidding?

            I've lived in racist enough places, and worked in sexist and racist enough industries, that such comments from the under-skilled, overpaid, privileged punks who benefited from the instituionalized racism. Such comments don't come from the skilled people in their fields: they come from the people who want to skate by on their "people skills".
        • Why not?
        • A white-only restaurant would prevent access by non-whites by physical force. No-one is preventing a visually-impaired person from visiting Target's site except that own person's limits.

          Do you expect wheelchair ramps on Mount Everest? Are we to forbid people from developing complex mathematical formulae, because some people are too stupid to understand them?

          • When that "complex mathematical formula" is used as the basis for preventing people from doing some unrelated activity, then yes, that use should be at least examined. Or do you think it's fair if a website to make a doctor's appointment requires Internet Explorer version 7, blocking Linux, MacOS, FireFox, and older Windows users from accessing it?
      • Catering to the needs of disabled people isn't only a choice, its usually backed by legislation. There are lots of modifications in place to benefit wheelchair users / mothers with prams and buggys. crossings tend to have a different paving texture making it easier for blind people to locate.

        Is this unreasonable to try to ensure disabled people get a similar quality of service to able bodied people?
        Isn't it written into the constitution that its illegal to discriminate?

        Now don't you think it would be reason
        • Fourteenth Amendment (Score:2, Informative)

          by tepples (727027)

          Isn't it written into the constitution that its illegal to discriminate?

          Whose Constitution? In the United States, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from "deny[ing] to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." But what is "protection" and what is a handout? And can states delegate this requirement for "protection" to businesses within their borders? The wording of the Constitution leaves this up to the sociopolitical climate.

          What elements enable disabled users to make better use of a site and what create barriers to use?

          Here are a few I can think of; see WCAG [w3.org] for details:

          • Use of structural markup (h1, h2, h3, h4, strong, em) instead of
      • by raehl (609729) <raehl311&yahoo,com> on Sunday October 14, 2007 @07:10AM (#20972665) Homepage
        And I'm not going to make a single "because it's morally right' argument.

        Free enterprise works pretty well - when everyone decides to spend money in whichever way satisfies their greedy nature, resources get allocated fairly efficiently.

        But this is not always the case. For example, if you run a manufacturing business that produces toxic chemical waste, depending on how greedy your nature is, you may choose to just dump your waste in the nearest river. While this works well for you in the short run, it works well for no one in the long run if all businesses operate that way because soon everything would be too polluted to use. So we have government regulations that say 'Hey, if you make waste, you have to pay to dispose of it properly', and then the costs of that get passed on to the consumers of the product that caused the generation of the waste in the first place.

        Did you see how that worked? In this case, government regulation ENHANCES the proper allocation of resources, by making sure the entire costs of manufacturing a product is borne by those who use the product.

        Legally mandated disability access works in a similar manner. For any given business, the direct cost to them of maintaining access for the disabled may not balance out just not accepting that business in the first place. But, if we don't require that all businesses make reasonable efforts to be accessible to the disabled, then very soon no businesses would be accessible to the disabled. And that's a problem for everyone - because now instead of having disabled people, who through reasonable accommodations made to them are independent productive members of society, we now have disabled people who are essentially locked up in their homes, unable to participate and contribute to society, where we then have to either divert our tax dollars to support them, or let them starve to death (or in the very least, let them out on the street to beg).

        Secondary to that, disability access is a bit like health insurance. While most of us are not disabled CURRENTLY, it's quite possible something might happen where we become disabled in the future. An accident, a disease, or shit, we could just get old, and not be able to walk or see as well as we used to. So, as a society, by deciding to make reasonable accommodation for the disabled, we also ensure that in the event we ourselves become disabled in the future, access is available to us. We may not ever need it, but if we do, we'll be glad we have it.

        Another point to note here is that web accessibility is NOT just about seeing-eye-dog-blind people. Some people can't see very well just because they get old and lose their vision. That's probably not as big a deal now because most older Americans don't use computers anyway, but in 20-30 years, it'll be quite important as the internet generation starts to lose their eyesight.
        • Well written, sir or madam.

          The standards for "web accessibility" also help stabilize the web. Simple text web pages, or ones with well defined ALT tags, remain legible in newer and older browsers. They also make the content more easily searchable and editable by the authors. It's not as "flashy", a pun I choose deliberately. But it usually saves server resources, client resources, and bandwidth to keep the page content centric rather than focusing on the latest "Web 2.0" exciting graphical cuteness, even if
        • Your post is what happens when you don't identify the fundamentals.

          A manufacturer who doesn't properly handle toxic waste is violating the rights of the persons upon whom the toxins impinge. Laws should identify those rights and devise a method for ensuring that rights are not violated (and compensating those whose rights are violated).

          A business that doesn't provide handicapped access is violating no-one's rights; the property is privately owned and any visitor is there by permission, not by right. Prov

          • by vidarh (309115)
            By your own argument denying access based on race, gender, religious or political beliefs would all be acceptable.

            The property may be privately owned, but the business operated on the property is operated under permission of the government, because society always have recognized that the public has a common interest in regulating how business is carried out because it is so fundamental to the functioning of society overall and can have so significant effects on society.

            Amongst those interest, there is a

      • by vertinox (846076)
        If you don't like something vote with your wallet.

        They are voting with their wallet. They are using it to vote via their lawyer.

        But seriously... So you are saying that your worth and rights as a human being are determined by how much money you have?

        I mean... I could vote with my wallet but it won't change anything other than I'll be sitting at home a lot without electricity, books, electronics, food, gas in the car, or even clothes that aren't falling apart.

        I suppose in the end, if I really wanted to vote w
      • Instead of supporting something better we try to coerce it into being the way we'd like.

        The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. --George Bernard Shaw

        Damn straight I'm going to try to force positive changes.

  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:17AM (#20971831) Homepage
    I can't wait for a lawsuit against sites that require Internet Explorer to work correctly. Web access should be available to all browsers.
  • How long until Target figures out that very few people actually use their website compared to the trouble of all these lawsuits. As has been mentioned by other posters, it's quite possibly a browser config and interpretation issue. So, these lawsuits might never stop, so why not just block all access from these IP ranges?

    There are incidences of mass lawsuits invoking the disabilities act even against stores which comply with it. It's not something that you can feel happy defending against and odds are that
  • by Doppler00 (534739) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:45AM (#20971925) Homepage Journal
    I mean, aren't all online retailers doing exactly the same thing? Selling stuff. You have a database of stuff. Different fields, etc... you just plop them in a template. So you have a regular website template and one for disability. Is that so hard? The only problem is, that people don't think about these things upfront and it leads to bad design.

    Which makes me think, do they have standards documents for creating a disability accessible website? What all is involved? And what about amazon's "look inside" function? There is no way a text to speech algorithm can read those books because they are images.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by seebs (15766)
      Yes, there's standards. They're probably imperfect, but this stuff is not hard; Target's got things like graphical buttons with no alt text, where the graphic is just a picture of some words. VERY easy to fix.
    • by PietjeJantje (917584) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @05:05AM (#20972227)
      >So you have a regular website template and one for disability. Is that so hard?

      This seems to be a leading theme, presumably by people who do not make sites or make sites that don't work well with disability. The company I work for actually built a site for a foundation for blind people, and they provided a test panel to go through the motions, and a whole set of guidelines to go with it. Let start by saying it isn't just throwing another template at it. If you think you're coding in standards, nice div's and CSS all, and that it just requires throwing a template at it with less bling, think again. Essentially the "problem" is readers, and you'll have to cater for the basic, anal reader html parser. A whole lot of tags you thought were ok, suddenly turn out to be wrong, such as BR. The whole navigation design and design in general will fail, because it's not much fun going into a page for content and being read 50 links first. The whole way of logically setting up text areas and making sure it flows takes a lot of reconsideration. The testing and debugging takes a lot of time, and you -will- bumb into issues you just plainly did not consider because you are simply not blind. Then there's the CMS, and its users should not be able to break any of this. I can go on, but all in all it took about 150% of the time web site builders normally put in a site, complete with "basic" template. That is, if you want to do it 100% right.
  • I wonder what this will mean to all those Flash only and ActiveX Heavy sites out there that look like garbage on the screen will be legally mandated to clean the page up?

    Conversely, could this be used to push some Ultra-proprietary Screen reader technology only Windows Supports by adding elements that would make FireFox and Konqueror unusable?

    What will the outcome be? Is this the sum of all fears?
  • Blindness is not a disability, it is [wikipedia.org] a [hugereviews.com] superpower [wikipedia.org]!

    I should totally be made a (highly-paid) part of their blood-sucking legal team.

  • just crowdsource it (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:59AM (#20971975)
    http://pornfortheblind.org/ [pornfortheblind.org] is doing this with pornography sample clips already, the basic idea should apply to any site.
  • I think this is the federal government intruding where they have no right to be. If Target doesn't wish to have blind customers purchase from their site, why is this business decision anybody else's business. I don't recall anywhere in the United States Constitution where it states that all web sites must be accessible by all blind people -- nor that its the government's job to "fix this".

    Pile on enough laws and you can destroy the web for everyone. It's not as resilient as you may think.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I know that Libertarians like to pretend it isn't true, but there are some things that are good for society that would almost never happen under the free market. If 0.5% of Target's customers are blind (a decent estimate), it might not be profitable for Target to go to the expense of assisting them. But if all businesses came to the same conclusion, we'd have a completely inaccessible society, and everyone with a disability would be forced to either live on social security or have a generous person assist
      • by GryMor (88799)
        They are being treated equally, they are being provided precisely the same information as the rest of the world. Their isn't some magic code on target.com that checks to see if you are blind, and if you are blind, scrambles everything.

        This is not equal treatment, it is special treatment.
    • If Target doesn't wish to have blind customers purchase from their site, why is this business decision anybody else's business

      If I wish to sell software, music, and films that I copied from the internet, why is this business decision anybody else's business? Answer: Just because the law says I cannot do this.

      Regulating commerce is well within the capacity of congress and the states, the constitution says so.

      Pile on enough laws and you can destroy the web for everyone.

      Actually what's destroying the web are

  • Vision Impaired (Score:2, Informative)

    by Babel (100429)
    The term you are looking for is "vision impaired", which means: people who have a lack of vision (blind) or have poor vision. The term "visually impaired" means: ugly.
  • by davmoo (63521) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @05:57AM (#20972397)
    The end result could be mandated accessibility for for all Web sites reachable by visually impaired users in California.

    Or it could begin a wave of website owners deciding "this shit isn't worth it", and they either turn off their site entirely or at least block known California IP ranges.
  • by Tom (822)
    Honestly (and I know I'm gonna be modded down for this, but let's face it, half of us think this and don't dare say it) I hate these kinds of laws and court cases.

    So you have a disability. Sorry for you. Why, exactly, is this my problem? If I want my shop to be accessible (or, in my case, my online game), then I'll invest whatever amount of time and effort it's worth to me. If I don't, then you can shop somewhere else.

    Regulations like these are ok when it comes to essential and public services, such as publ
    • by Manchot (847225)
      Here's the problem with that line of reasoning. Things such as wheelchair ramps don't cost a whole lot of money, but it's still enough that any business would not want to pay it. You see, despite what some of the rabid free-marketeers will tell you, unless you sell wheelchairs, the number of disabled people is usually not sufficient to justify the cost of a wheelchair ramp. Moreover, the number of people who would care enough to "vote with their dollars" is insubstantial at best. For a perfect example, look
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jbengt (874751)
      "Zero support from me for regulations of this kind on private business."

      If your a completely private entity, those accessibility rules would not apply. But for businesses open to the public, there's a long history of discrimination that has been held as improper ("Irish need not apply" help wanted signs, real estate deeds preventing sale to Jews, "Whites Only" lunch counters, etc.) and the state and federal governments have the legal power to force you to be open to everyone if you're not a completely priv
  • For all of you saying that businesses shouldn't be required to provide service to the vision impaired, I have one thing to say:

    Pray that you never lose your sight.

    What really burns me is that it actually takes effort to make a site inaccessible. The rules of good style (and taste) are often the same rules to make the site accessible. There have even been validation tools for this for a very long time. I actually pointed our marketing guy at one of these to stop him committing crimes against style on the com
  • The ADA is a huge cash cow for litigators. They can file "drive-by lawsuits", for any technical violation and pretty much win automatically. Worst of all is that they don't even need to complain and give the business owner a chance to remedy the situation, just file the suit and take home a check. Has nothing to do with giving people access.
  • The end result could be mandated accessibility for for all Web sites reachable by visually impaired users in California.
    So.... they're going to sue all the websites on the planet? Do they even know how the internet works?

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