You are reading an archived post from the first version of my blog. I've started fresh, and the new design and content is now at

Taking Aim at Target(.com)

February 9, 2006
WaSP aiming to Sting Target

With a name like Target, you would almost think they would have seen it coming, wouldn’t you?

The US National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has brought legal action against Target corporation (a major US-based discount retailer which operates more than 1,300 stores in 47 states) because their web site is not accessible. The NFB has raised the issue with Target Corporation before:

The website is no more accessible today than it was in May of last year, when we first complained to Target.

That’s about 10 months ago. Sorry Target, but that’s just not good enough.

Ten months is more than enough time to fix the issues, or at least get started doing so. (Word to the wise – if you are making accessibility changes to your site based on feedback – make sure you document your process so that you can at least show that you’re doing something to address the issues, and if you are doing it incrementally make some sort of public announcment with each improvement you make, ok? You know – that would make good business sense.)

There’s quite a few areas that are described as problematic in the official NFB v Target case documents but the main points are:

  • Lack of alt text
  • images maps that neither have alt text or a functional equivalent on the page
  • requirement for a mouse to perform various functions on the site

Honestly – I’m shocked at the first two. This is Accessibility 101. Should be in HTML 101 and Web Design 101 as well. But the third? A requirement for a mouse? I had to see this for myself.

It seems that uses image based submit buttons for certain forms (<input type="image" .../>). See the Target Pharmacy Sign In page. That’s right there’s no alt text on the image based submit buttons. Oh, but it gets worse.

When using these type of submit buttons, x and y co-ordinates that represent the exact location in pixels where the image was clicked are submitted along with the rest of the form as part of its array of name-value pairs. And if you use the keyboard to submit the link what happens? No x or y co-ordinates. And if your server side logic requires those x and y co-ordinates? Yes, that’s right. You have effectively locked out keyboard users.

This will be an interesting case for a number of reasons:

  1. is powered by, so who is responsible? are both responsible? a 50-50 split? 75-25? does the engine that is powering the site even allow Target developers make it accessible? Depending on the functionality of the Amazon engine, can it be considered an Authoring Tool and thus subject to the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines? Did Amazon promise accessibility but not deliver? Did accessibility even make it on to the radar when building the site?
  2. other cases have failed for a variety of reasons; the Southwest Airlines case had less teeth because they admitted fully that a screen reader user could still buy tickets online, but it was tougher to do so. Not the case with A non-mouse user can not buy online. Nor can they create or sign in to the Target online pharmacy. A screen reader user can not find out what grocery coupons found exclusively on the web they can print to take into the store.

Will the NFB be successful? Can a case like this have an influence on web accessibility in the private sector world-wide? One can only hope. We need this to be big, and we need it to hurt badly so that corporations world-wide take more notice!

For further reading:

53 Responses

Comment by Jesse Skinner — Feb 09 2006 @ 1:03 pm

This is completely unacceptable. I always hear people who knowingly build inaccessible websites claim they simply don’t have blind visitors, which is ignorant enough. But after a complaint from the NFB?! If the NFB complained that I needed to change something, I wouldn’t sleep until it was done!

And c’mon, it sounds like these changes are trivial. It’s not like Target doesn’t have the money. And besides, think of all the money they’re losing from blind customers. And how much more they’re about to lose in court.

In a way, I’m glad this happened, though. It was bound to happen eventually. Accessibility has been a “nice-to-have” for way too long. Let’s hope this will finally wake people up.

Comment by Vincent J. Murphy — Feb 09 2006 @ 1:04 pm

Interesting that all that navigation on the left of the Target home page is trapped in images, but on the lower-level pages, the navigation is properly text-based.

I always assume in cases where text is improperly trapped in images that the designers/producers either took the easiest way to recreate the look of the design or that they didn’t want to deal with possible design issues when the the user changes font size.

But man, no alt text for images or image maps is such a baby mistake.

Comment by Jeff — Feb 09 2006 @ 1:18 pm

Stupid as far as I’m concerned. If Target doesn’t mind losing the customers, why should we care? It’s one thing if it wasn’t the private sector – say, for instance, the IRS website. Or a public school system.

Yes, it’s bad form for sure. Who doesn’t know enough to use alt tags? But I certainly hope the lawsuit gets thrown out.

Comment by Robert Wellock — Feb 09 2006 @ 1:23 pm

Well, I doubt they'd be stupid enough to not to make any "reasonable ongoing adjustments" but we shall see…

Comment by karmatosed — Feb 09 2006 @ 1:31 pm

Crossing fingers this is the way things are going to start happening and I will no longer be looked at oddly when I go on about web standards in the UK. I live in remote area and it is often like pulling teeth trying to get message across. Although, I do note a change lately. I think ultimately if you as a web designer have any pride you would be designing to standards (harsh but that me, I dream in a world of the title Web Professional being applied). Looks like the land that sues air finally is sueing something that could be good.

Comment by pixeldiva — Feb 09 2006 @ 1:34 pm

I’m sorry Jeff, but pardon me?

Why on earth would you wish that the lawsuit gets thrown out?

Are you really telling me you’d find it acceptable to find yourself locked out of the store of one of the major retailers in the US and told to go elsewhere?

This is not an issue about Target losing customers (although frankly, they deserve to do so), it’s about ensuring people have equal access to goods and services.

End of.

There shouldn’t be one rule for government and one rule for commerce, and yes, shoot me for being an idealist, but each and every single website that provides any kind of goods or services (whether that be solid product or information), should be built to allow access to anyone who wishes to use it – regardless of their abilities or the technology they use.

Same goes for bricks and mortar places too, btw.

In this day and age people with disabilities shouldn’t still have to fight for the simplest of reasonable adjustments, and lack of alt text is reprehensible.

Ensuring accessibility should be an automatic part of building a website, not an optional extra or an add-on that’s only done because you’re gonna get sued if you don’t. It quite simply should just be done.

… and when it’s not, and it’s against the law that it’s not done, then yes, while I might think that using the carrot rather than the stick is the preferred method of getting the point across, when all else fails, the stick should be used, the lawsuits should be fought, and things should be set right.

It’s 2006 for goodness sake, it’s about bloody time.

Comment by Jesse — Feb 09 2006 @ 1:36 pm

Jeff: what is your position on a building that only has stair access? Never-mind one built even 20 years ago but how about a building built a couple years ago? Say the building is a Target store just for arguments sake.

The lack of response to the complaint is surprising… I wonder who will get fired for ignoring that letter?

Comment by june — Feb 09 2006 @ 2:06 pm

Whenever I explain accessibility to someone I like to use the analogy that having an inaccessible website is like having a public building with no handicap ramps or handicap parking spaces.

Its a bit of an oversimplification but I hope that Target(and the like) will someday understand that an inaccessible website can present just as many barriers (for those with disabilities) as a physical building can.

I feel like if they could see the amount of people that quickly leave their website because of its inaccessibility(and if they could understand how this is effecting their business)…they wouldn’t have thought twice about implementing the NFBs suggestions.

Comment by paul haine — Feb 09 2006 @ 2:31 pm

“Who doesn't know enough to use alt tags?”

They’re attributes, not tags.


Comment by Randy Peterman — Feb 09 2006 @ 2:53 pm

This is a rather biting post. In fact, I disagree, I don’t want this to hurt target, in fact I thought that WaSP was about helping people NOT hurt due to standards. I’d suggest that WaSP reach out to the OTHER Redmond giant and offer to help get things in better shape to increase revenue for them AND Target.

Comment by gavin j — Feb 09 2006 @ 6:13 pm

Did Target respond at all to the original complaint? (I am sorry but i haven’t looked at the details yet).
If no — or just a dismissive form letter — then it smacks of terrible arrogance.
I am not a fan of litigation but a little part of me wants this to be a successful legal complaint. Something else to fall back on other than SOCOG.

To the comment by June about explaining accessibility: if after you use the handicap ramp analogy and you discover that they ‘get it’ but still don’t care, remind them that anyone can become disabled at any time from an accident. I find that it sometimes breaks the ‘us and them barrier’.

Comment by pixeldiva — Feb 09 2006 @ 6:36 pm

Randy: It’s a great sentiment, and obviously the way to go about things, but there are times when you have to admit that all the persuading and approaching and offering to help just aren’t going to get the job done, and when they’ve ignored complaints from actual users, then they’ve kinda brought it on themselves.

Nobody wants to see them torn apart – just to make things better.

Comment by Nick Cowie — Feb 09 2006 @ 10:35 pm

As with SOCOG, I would say the court action is a result of Target’s corporate attitude. If Target had taken some action back in June last year, just adding alt attributes to images and starting work on the other issues and informing NFB and the public that action was being taken, they would no be heading to court.

And while I would like a another court case to use to get people to be more concerned about accessibility of their sites. I don’t expect this case to get that far. I expect Target to resolve this before it gets to court, because this is not six years ago and people will not be able to try and bullsh*t that accessibility is too difficult and too expensive (SOCOG’s defense).

A few people will be having their backsides kicked inside Target right now, changes will be made to their site and the amazon engine. And this action by the NFB will be useful to remind corporations of what can happen if they do not react to accessibility concerns raised by representative organisations. But I don’t expect a landmark court case, because I am sure the Target lawyers and management are not that stupid.

Comment by Maria Palma — Feb 10 2006 @ 2:01 am

Just another example of how corporate giants are failing overall in customer service.

I’m appalled. This is a basic web design issue which should be easily fixed.

~Maria Palma

Comment by Nathan Rutman — Feb 10 2006 @ 8:33 am

I’m with Jeff…this is dumb. The U.S. was founded on a capitalist economic structure. That means that if a minority (i.e. the blind) thinks they’re being treated unfairly, they organize the public at large to boycott or go to competitors. Suing should not even be an option. The government is different because the government is by nature a monopoly (at least until the next round of elections). You can’t give your money to anyone else – you’re forced to pay taxes by law. But no one is forcing anyone to shop at Target.

Did Target make a mistake? Yes. Did they make a retarded business decision? Yes. Should you or I (or the NFB) be able to dictate to them how they should build their website? Absolutely not. Come on, that should be cut and dry.

If this case doesn’t get thrown out, then hooray for broken government – always sticking its nose where it has no right to be. Call me old fashioned.

Comment by Zeerus — Feb 10 2006 @ 8:34 am

I meant to comment on this when it was originally posted, but never got around to it. I think it’s completely insane that a website like, which probably receives millions of visitors a month, if not weekly or even daily, does not openly support keyboard users.

I agree with everyone else, this is 2006 and there is no excuse for websites to not be accessible. This should have been fixed immediately after the first complaint. It’s not like there aren’t enough design firms out there who’d be willing to work for Target. They could have had a new, accessible site up in under a month. My main question is why did they ignore the first warning?

Comment by Isofarro — Feb 10 2006 @ 8:49 am

Derek – excellent analysis, especially the image submit button barrier – we used to use those, but went back to CSS for the new websites, but still I hadn’t realise the barrier they pose, most particularly when the server is expecting x and y co-ordinates.

Pixeldiva – right with you. Too many people say the free market economy should sort these problems out, but its clear the free market economy has failed to address these particular cases, and hence more social, legal or governmental means are required to protect people. The social means has already been tried – 10 months and still no positive response, so the time is correct to take the next step.

Nick – Target will most likely be investigating exactly what they have or have not been done. If a decent project management system is in place they’ll be able to track how far the complaint went, and the reason why the accessibility fixes didn’t get to the website. From there, it can be determined whether or not Target made reasonable endeavours, and they feel they have a justified reason for not making the accessibility corrections. (Yes, its just raw html at the end of the day, but inside multi-level management companies, simple things are incredibly difficult to do without full and wide support of the organisation).

Comment by Simon — Feb 10 2006 @ 9:17 am

Interestingly I think they’ve fixed the image button issue… at least unless I misunderstood what was the problem. I just tried in FF1.5 and IE6, and managed to add stuff to my cart using the keyboard to submit the “add” buttons. Maybe someone’s been scrambling to get the stable door bolted!

Comment by Baxter — Feb 10 2006 @ 9:28 am

Why Target? What made them a – um – target, rather than Wal-Mart or K-Mart (both of whom also have big accessibility problems, just as Target does) or any number of other online businesses. Let’s face it, it’s just TOO easy to find a big company with deep pockets and an inaccessible website. If I were a lawyer, I’d probably be shopping for new powerboats.

I’m not trying to give Target a pass here, I’m just wondering what they did to piss off the NFB above all others.

Comment by Ben Buchanan — Feb 10 2006 @ 9:54 am

Several thoughts here.

1) Target have the revenue to get this right. They can afford a good website, they really have no excuse.

2) Even if the fault lies with the system, they chose that system so they are still at some level of fault. The legal responsibility, well that’s one to put a lawyer’s kid through school. It won’t be based on reality, just law.

I always have trouble deciding what I think on this point :) If Target pay someone else for a system, then it is reasonable to expect that system isn’t setting them up to be sued. But then again – at least here in Australia – ignorance of a law is not considered a defence against breaking it.

3) Interesting choice of …uh… target. In all seriousness, Target is a banal, day-to-day company. No evocative “missing out on the olympics” or “hard time buying tickets to visit family”. It is interesting to me that the NFB are going after Target: maybe we can finally lay to rest the ridiculous argument “oh we’re just a homewares site, what does it matter? nobody will care”.

It’s important for people to understand that everything should be accessible, not just government sites; not just banking sites; EVERYTHING. We have the technology, society can stop treating the disabled like they don’t matter.

So anyway, I’m going to fascinated to see how this one unfolds.

Comment by Andy Budd — Feb 10 2006 @ 10:07 am

And if your server side logic requires those x and y co-ordinates? Yes, that's right. You have effectively locked out keyboard users.

I’m not sure if I’m missing something, but the form on the page you point to seems work fine using keyboard access. Are there other image inputs that requires the x and y cords to function, or were you simply highlighting this as a potential issue. Seems a bit of an edge case to me.

Comment by Derek Featherstone — Feb 10 2006 @ 10:16 am


I'm not sure if I'm missing something, but the form on the page you point to seems work fine using keyboard access

Actually – I’m preparing another post… It appears that Target have jumped to action and actually fixed that particular problem. It was a real barrier yesterday, and was definitely not an edge case…

Comment by Derek Featherstone — Feb 10 2006 @ 11:59 am

And, just to follow up – I checked a few more of their forms that use image based submits. They don’t function without the mouse. If you want to see one in action, add something to your shopping cart and then try to use the “Continue to Checkout” button with your keyboard and compare it to using your mouse.

Oh, and do it quickly before the fix it up!!

Comment by firstlastalways — Feb 10 2006 @ 1:29 pm

I think you guys are funny. You really think that anyone at Target gives a flying you-know-what about this? I’m sure they got the litigation notices along with their other daily dose of litigation notices and rolled their collective eyes over their morning coffee meeting.

If there’s enough publicity, they may make some changes in order to keep the public happy, but don’t expect them to care about a very small minority of web users. I worked there for 7 years (I don’t anymore and my words don’t represent them in any way) and, while I wasn’t on the Amazon web site team, I was on another web team and am familiar with the way things work there (and probably at other large corporations too.).

To get anything done in a place like that requires time and resources which equals people and money. Those resources (the people) are already working to capacity and there are very tight controls on how money is spent. It also requires that someone in the business care enough to derail someone else’s pet project so that one of the web developers can redesign the shopping pages for blind people.

The business likes to pay for new, cool stuff. But getting them to pay for maintenance items and stuff like this is like pulling your own teeth out with a pair of pliers. So don’t sit around and smirk about how Target really has to toe the line now that the NFB is suing them, because they don’t care.

I’m not weighing in on the validity of the litigation itself. I’m just trying to offer some perspective on how large companies actually view stuff like this.

Comment by Joe Clark — Feb 10 2006 @ 2:55 pm

Just a quick history lesson for Nathan. Antidiscrimination legislation (including the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by a Republican president) exists to curb the excesses of a free-market economy, in which some actors would discriminate at will. Equality of opportunity is a capitalist principle, one that is vitiated if discrimination is permitted under the guise of a free market.

Hence you the shopkeeper cannot legally refuse to serve a black person (or a white person) or a Jew or a disabled person. You must, moreover, make this equality real by providing accommodation short of undue hardship in cases of disability, religion, or sex. These principles vary in detail from developed country to developed country, but are well established and have survived repeated attempts to have them suppressed. They’re the law of the land in the U.S., and capitalists are law-abiding people.

You may wish to bone up on constitutional principles. May I suggest starting small, as with the Magna Carta?

Comment by Andy Budd — Feb 11 2006 @ 1:59 pm

I like the way they fixed the page you pointed to but nothing else! The sly buggers.

When I said “edge case” I meant that requiring x and y co-ords on the back end didn’t seem like something many people would do. In-fact I may be missing something, but I’m not sure why anybody would do that. Unless they are trying to foil spiders or something.

Comment by Ashley — Feb 11 2006 @ 1:59 pm

Wow that was deep Joe! I hope that Traget gets it act together and will be ready for any type pf visitor in the near future.

Comment by Mike Cherim — Feb 11 2006 @ 7:18 pm

Over at we want to get web accessibility to go mainstream by promoting high-function, high-style sites over the plain Jane, rather bland accessible sites we’ve all seen before.

This really helps the cause in an important way: If corporations are held liable for not doing it right, if they have to bear a financial responsibility for their actions — or lack thereof — and if they end up being the focus of negative press, they will change. And others will follow suit before getting caught themselves, so to speak.

Comment by Christian Montoya — Feb 12 2006 @ 2:13 pm

@ firstlastalways: I totally know what you mean, this is just another blip on the radar, but I think it’s still a fight worth fighting.

@ Joe: thanks, someone really needed to say that!

Comment by Terry — Feb 12 2006 @ 10:39 pm

Of course it would make good business sense for Target to do all they can to attract more business, and in this case, the changes are not burdensome. However if they want to do something stupid that alienates customers, they should be able to. The NFB can show their displeasure by taking their business elsewhere. Target will be out of luck.

But this is a nation of complainers and like many other groups, the NFB have learned that if you cry louder than a classroom full of two-year-olds, you can get your way. Even if you agree that web site should be accessible to the widest possible audience, you must see the big picture here: private groups getting the Government to force private businesses to design web sites as the groups see fit. What if a group says your web site is offensive, or that they want equal time to voice their views on it? Should the Government have the power to force you to capitulate?

"We need this to be big…"

This is not the sixties and we are not fighting an evil empire. This is simply a case of a retail company not putting enough time and thought into one aspect of their sales.

Comment by Derek Featherstone — Feb 12 2006 @ 11:31 pm


if they want to do something stupid that alienates customers, they should be able to.

So then, should they be able to say that they’ll only serve females at what about caucasians? Those would certainly be something stupid that would alienate customers, but your logic allows them to do those as well. Quite simply, that’s not how equal rights works.

This is not the sixties and we are not fighting an evil empire. This is simply a case of a retail company not putting enough time and thought into one aspect of their sales.

No, you’re right. It’s not the sixties. Its 2006, and I still can’t believe that people don’t see that this is a human rights issue.

And, you’re right – we’re not fighting an evil empire. We are fighting utter ignorance – having read some of the threads around the net regarding this case, I’m absolutely shocked at the lack of knowledge displayed by people.

This is more than simply a case of a retail company not putting enough time and thought into one aspect of their sales. This case sends a message that its not ok for Target to discriminate based on ability, and that its not ok for other companies to do it either. When I say We need this to be big I mean that this needs air time and it needs to be high profile so that other companies see it. You had better believe that if this is going on with Target that other major retailers are going to hear about it and start wondering if their sites are accessible.

Comment by Nathan Rutman — Feb 13 2006 @ 9:32 am

A response to Joe:

Oh, come on. You (and the NFB) are going to cry discrimination because a website – i.e. a technological entity that has a history of catoring and serving seeing people – is behind the times by a half decade or so? Give me a break. This isn’t discrimination. It’s a simple case of letting the corporate website slide behind the times. It’s the norm in corporate America, not the exception…remember? You don’t think that comparing this to blatant racism is going a bit too far, even for us web standards/semantics/accessibilty/usability activists?

I’m afraid this little movement is slipping into an “the ends justify the means” mentality. When we can talk about web accessibility (which takes a lot of money and talent to do correctly on a grand scale like Target) and racism and sexism (blatant acts of human judgment and hatred) in the same sentence, we’re asking to be misunderstood by the decision-makers we should be trying to win.

Good luck trying to prove that Target hates blind people.

Comment by Tim Connor — Feb 13 2006 @ 8:02 pm


When I said "edge case" I meant that requiring x and y co-ords on the back end didn't seem like something many people would do. In-fact I may be missing something, but I'm not sure why anybody would do that. Unless they are trying to foil spiders or something.

Just standard browser behavior of the < input type="button" and the most immediately obvious way to handle it. It probably wasn't intentional, so much as not knowing better - people often just check for the existance of Request.Form("buttonname.x"), since clicking the button with your mouse doesn't send Request.Form("buttonname")

Comment by Adam — Feb 14 2006 @ 1:12 am

Why is target’s website held to a different standard than, say, their print catalog? Does that come in Braille? Can you use a screen reader? Can you use it at all if you can’t read?
What makes the website special that it falls under this incredible amount of scrutiny?
Sure, I think you should do whatever you can to make life easier for alternative browsers, disabled people, whatever. But I dont think you should be LEGALLY LIABLE for not doing it….

Comment by Two-Bits — Feb 15 2006 @ 5:40 am

I have to agree with Nathan here. The issue is whether or not they are in violation of the law. A 2002 ruling by a federal judge indicated that the ADA does not apply to the Internet or web sites. It strictly applies to physical places. Adam brings up a great example, print catalogs. The same could be said for coupon fliers or booklets, print advertisements, and the like. This is not a legal issue, and the chances of the 2002 ruling being overturned, in my opinion, is slim to none.

Now don’t get me wrong, as a web developer myself, I have to agree that the lack of accessibility of the Target website is certainly atrocious. I almost couldn’t believe it when I noticed they were actually using image maps for navigation, a widely acknowledged no-no. This merely reflects poorly on Target and Amazon. If you feel strongly enough about their lack of accessibility, rally a boycott. Inundate the corporate office with complaints and petitions. Do what is within your power to convince these companies that it’s within their best interest to accommodate such needs.

I also urge you to consider the overall ramifications of any legislation that would include the Internet and web sites under this or a similar act. It can’t be happily applied only to the giants that you feel can afford such restrictions. Any small business or “Mom and Pop” shop, or any web site that merely offers the slightest hint of goods or services, could suddenly come under fire if they lacked the accessibility. Many of these sites were created by amateurs, friends, open-source authoring programs, and individuals who are simply not knowledgeable enough to conform to standards and regulations they know nothing about. Consider the true ends before you try to justify the means.

Comment by Isofarro — Feb 16 2006 @ 1:49 am

The issue is whether or not they are in violation of the law. A 2002 ruling by a federal judge indicated that the ADA does not apply to the Internet or web sites. It strictly applies to physical places.

I take your federal ruling in Florida, and raise you an appeals court verdict – “Carparts Distribution Center v. Automotive Wholesaler’s Association“, which includes:

By including “travel service” among the list of services considered “public accommodations,” Congress clearly contemplated that “service establishments” include providers of services which do not require a person to physically enter an actual physical structure. Many travel services conduct business by telephone or correspondence without requiring their customers to enter an office in order to obtain their services. Likewise, one can easily imagine the existence of other service establishments conducting business by mail and phone without providing facilities for their customers to enter in order to utilize their services. It would be irrational to conclude that persons who enter an office to purchase services are protected by the ADA, but persons who purchase the same services over the telephone or by mail are not. Congress could not have intended such an absurd result.

There’s a whole host of examples along these lines, notably in the insurance field, all concluding that ADA is not limited to physical spaces.

And we overlook that Priceline and Ramada both settled for inaccessible websites when challenged with ADA violations.

Comment by Two-Bits — Feb 17 2006 @ 10:14 am

That ruling merely asserts that a physical location need not exist for a service to qualify as a “public accommodation” under Title III of the ADA. Target, as a sales establishment, is a “public accommodation”. Target’s web site, however, is merely an interface to gain access to their services, like a telephone or the postal system. Target is accommodating individuals with disabilities by the accessibility of their physical stores, where the service of the establishment is offered.

Many establishments offer the use of their services over the phone, such as pizza delivery, yet they are not required to accommodate deaf or mute individuals over the phone. It seems to me that businesses that solely operate via the Internet would be the ones under the thumb here, and that’s only when “auxiliary aids” that are determined not to be a “fundamental alteration or undue burden” can be clearly defined for the Internet.

Comment by Eric G — Feb 17 2006 @ 9:00 pm

Not sure how many of you guys actually work for a big company/site, but you could heave some responsibility on the developers/designers too (rather than just “target”).

Probably any non-IT department head that’s involved with the website (marketing, purchasing, accounting, etc) doesn’t have an idea of what’s needed to make a site 508 compliant (and in most cases, how easy).

Unless the GUI guys were explicity told NOT to make enhancements for 508, or the QA team prevented them making changes, there’s no reason they couldn’t have made the changes themselves.

It starts with the front line guys, they can make many small changes that would impact the site greatly w/o having to get 6 different approvals from 3 departments to do so.

If you are one of these guys afraid to make a change on a big site, you owe it to yourself to step up and rattle the cage a little and do what needs to be done.

Comment by Adam — Feb 18 2006 @ 12:26 am

I dont think anyone is saying that it’s a BAD idea for Target or any website to be compliant and acccessible.
I think what those of us who disagree with the basis of the lawsuti are saying is that we dont think you should be legally culpable for NOT making your site accessible.

Comment by Andy Budd — Feb 18 2006 @ 4:59 am

I guess it comes down to your thoughts about discrimination and social equality. If you feel that large companies should be able to choose who they do business with purely on economic terms, then you are absolutely right. However if you believe in equality and social justice, minorities who feel they are being discriminated against need to have some recourse in a court of law.

For instance, do you think that target should allow wheelchair access to their store, provide disabled toilets or disabled parking outside the shop, or do you feel that doing such things would be too costly and not worth the effort considering the small number of disabled people that come into the store?

If a wheelchair bound person couldn’t shop in Target because of a lack of wheelchair access and complained, do you think it’s fair for Target to refuse to put in a ramp because it will cost them a few thousand dollars? Baring in mind that this is a company that makes millions? What if Target was the only shop that person could easily get to? How about if that person wanted to buy something that only Target sold? What if you’d broke your leg and had to use a wheelchair to go shopping for a month? Do you think its reasonable for a large corporation to discriminate purely on financial grounds?

The Internet provides an important lifeline for many people who would otherwise not have access to information, goods and services. At the same time, web accessibility isn’t rocket science. and it isn’t all that costly or time consuming either.

I agree that the original developers have a part to play in this story. However if a company gets complaints from somebody regarding the accessibility of their site, they need to take the issue seriously. If they take the complaints on board and work together to try and fix the problem, there is no need for the courts. The problems start when large corporations ignore these issues, brushing them under the carpet. If a company knows there are problems and decides to ignore them, I think its perfectly valid to seek the help of the legal system. After all, laws are there to protect the rights of people, and courts are there to hear both sides of an argument and make a fair and reasoned decision.

Lastly I doubt there are a mass of disabled people out there queuing up to take the local dime store website to court. Just because a law is in place doesn’t mean that it has to, or will be rigourously enforced.

Comment by Felix Winkelnkemper — Feb 20 2006 @ 9:32 pm

The argument, that you do not have to care about it, if target does not care about their customers is nonsence. The fact is, that this is a kind of discrimination. Think about a step back in the history of the United States.

A Shop does not allow black people to enter. There is a black scandal about that. What do you say then? “If they do not want the black as customers, why should we care?” You cannot be serious!

Comment by Ben — Feb 23 2006 @ 9:15 am

Funny. ALA doesn’t have alt text on it’s search submit button.

Comment by sugarTeen — Feb 23 2006 @ 3:19 pm

I’m with Jeff. Freedom

Comment by b1-66er — Feb 24 2006 @ 6:02 pm

Here’s a question for you … When we watch 24 hours of Americna TV straight, switching the channel randomly every 15 minutes, how many Target ads will we see? 150? More?

Will I be seeing red bullseyes the rest of my life?

Comment by LSW — Mar 03 2006 @ 5:29 pm

Great article Derek,

I too am agast when I hear these arguments suggesting that accessibility is Targets problem and no lawsuites should be filed. I hear that argument often when writing on accessibility. I can follow the logic behind it, I simply cannot believe it is really being used.

I am in my 40’s. left the US in the 80’s and just returned to the US recently.

When I was a kid I remeber NOT having sloped side walks to the street level, they were great ramps to jump when built… I remeber it, and that law suites brought them on.

We did not have wide disabled toilettes.
Few if any stores/buildings had ramps, mostly just churches.
Disabled parking did not exist back in the 70’s as I recall.
Single parent parking? Womens parking?
How many others are normal now but were not in the 60’s. 70’s or 80’s… maybe even 90’s?

How many of things came to be due to court cases? Laws passed?

Big business does not fear loosing a few thousand customers like Mom & Pop stores. Bad Press, Laws and court cases are the only things that get their attention. Court cases cause bad plublicity and get their attention.

Is litigation the right thing to make things change? Of course not. But far to often it is the only thing that works.

Comment by LSW — Mar 03 2006 @ 7:46 pm

Derek, or many arguing here… talk is ften about the ADA, sec. 508 etc., however in a article at the Disability Rights Advocate the following was written:

“…charges that Target's website ( is inaccessible to the blind, violating the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.”

If this is purely a case under a single state’s Law, would it not then be of no relevance to ADA? In how far would this effect other court cases. No doubt the site should be accessible… but I just question why it is charged for violating a state’s law and not federal. I hardly think my web site should be sued for crossing a single states laws anymore then it should be sued under another countries laws.The site should only come under the state laws for the state where a company is based, is that California for Target?

Comment by Britney — Mar 09 2006 @ 3:07 pm

I am just glad to read that Target got on board and is fixing things. To bad it took them so long to get there act right!

Comment by ziggy — Mar 22 2006 @ 9:56 pm

What (self-righteous) hypocrites. You would help 10,000 times more people if you forced companies to translate their websites into Spanish. Why don’t you demand that?

Comment by Mel — Mar 26 2006 @ 3:31 am

While I am glad of how strong the beliefs and opinions of people who made comments on the issue, it is so typical for everyone to turn and out-do someone else’s comment. Anyway…

I believe that Target should respond to the complaint. However, do we know how much paper trail was made for the issue. If the case is a complaint, then lawsuit the next, Target would possibly get away with a warning or something. But who am I to decide what actually happens right?

Bottom line, the rest of the world still does not know what accessibility, usability and search engine-friendly code are and what they entail. I also have not seen any comment from Target from all the articles. One article mentioned something regarding the lawsuit but not the first complaint. does not even have a DOCTYPE. That’s says something. So let’s see what happens…

Comment by Leslie S. — Apr 28 2006 @ 2:32 pm

Nathan and Jeff, thank you for a reasonable analysis of the real problem.
If someone is only 4ft. tall and can’t reach the top shelf, are they going to complain to every possible source including filing lawsuits on ridiculous claims? No, they will adjust, shop with a tall friend, or ask an employee to help them. This is the common sense method. If someone is blind, does that mean they should be given money because of the “hardship” they have suffered because they cannot use a website? Absolutely not! Would we reward someone because they are short?? Use the same channels we all have access to: ask a friend to help you, call the store, ask an employee, worst case- Go shop at Wal-Mart!
This is ridiculous that anyone can sue for an unacceptable reason. Move on. Let it go. Stop Whining.

Comment by Mark — Sep 18 2006 @ 11:30 am

Look at all the comments on this subject! Some people have nothing better to do than look for fault with anything and everything. Constant complaining only brings people down. Don’t be part of the problem, by turning every little thing into a personal or political platform. Instead, be part of the solution and look for the good in people. Yeah, yeah I know . . . freedom of speech.

Everything can’t be perfect for everyone. We all have difficulties with a variety of things. Do we all understand rocket science? NO! But that doesn’t mean we attack it, because we are not as bright on the subject as someone else. We can’t possibly be “sensitive” to EVERY plight in this country. Nor should be expect others to be. Let’s just try to get along and communicate with each other about our needs.

This kind of attack format is not the way to get something done!

Comment by Jamie Smith — Oct 24 2006 @ 11:49 pm

I’m surprised that so many folks replying think that Target should be allowed to exclude a group of individuals. What if a company decided only white folks could enter? Or decided to exclude all women? To me, this really is an equal access issue.

NFB isn’t sueing to get money but equal access. They are a strong organization of the blind. They believe the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information that exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance.

My godchild is totally blind. Shopping on line is a great way to get what is needed without having to deal with transportation issues (another problem sighted folks forget about).

We should all want to ensure that everyone in the U.S. can get in the door. We should all, in my humble opinion, fight against such injustice.

In this case, the fight NFB is doing may benefit all us folks who are getting older. One in five older Americans will have vision loss that will effect their independent living skills. As they and we get older, because we live longer, blindness may occur. Lack of good public transportation, may result in us folks turning to internet purchasing. If NFB wins, we might be able to get the door way!

Comment by Fred — Oct 26 2006 @ 3:01 pm

One thing I’m surprised that no one has mentioned yet is that, despite what some of the accessibilty pundits claim, making a large, complicated web application accessible and 508 compliant is very hard to do. Even the most talented web UI developers out there in the industry will be overwhelmed by the challenge of implementing these requirements. And doing this all properly from the start is one thing, but trying to retrofit an already existing site/app is only that much more difficult.

Recently, our company has attempted to do take on this challenge in an effort to garner more customers in the government and military. While our app is only a fraction of the size that Target’s is, it has still cost us well over $1million and more than 18 months to do and we’re still not even over some of the more challenging hurdles.

The problem, as I see it, is that accessibility advocates and the 508 legislation itself are oversimplifying the scope of the problems out there. Sure, it’s easy to change a site that has mostly static content and a only a couple of dozen HTML pages. But things become much, much more difficult when you’re building an app designed for lots of input who’s pages are structured dynamically based on the current data that happens to be present. It’s hard enough trying to make this usable for people without disabilities.

As far as we’re concerned, the legislation and standards need some serious work if thery’re going become the basis for enforcement rather than just recommendation. They need to take into account ALL the ways in which a browser is used as front end and not assume that everything that appears within a browser is a website and that all websites can behave in and be structured in the same way.

Changing the web to be accessible will cost far more time and money than it took to make the ramps, bathrooms and parking spaces we see out there today.