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Web Accessibility Could Be California Law

20 October, 2007 by Peter Verhoeven

Target is being targetted for allegedly forcing users to navigate the web blindly. A lawsuit filed in 2006 claims that Target has violated the California Disabilities Persons Act in that its website, Target.com, does not provide full and equal access to blind users.

The Target suit claims that alternate text and accessible image maps are missing which screen readers depend on to read through the page content and vocalize it to the user; and, the website requires the use of a mouse to complete certain functions. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) who, in part, filed this suit has also filed and won similar cases against America Online, Priceline.com, and Ramada.com.

The judge has now granted class-action status to the Target lawsuit which means that all blind people in the U.S. who have tried to access Target.com can join in the lawsuit. The judge also went a step further stating that under California state's Disabled Rights Law, websites are required to be accessible. There are apparently about 10,000 people in California who use reading software to access the internet.

This is a precedent setting case with far reaching implications for all websites. This has the potential to create new requirements for companies, new jobs, added development needs, new QA needs, retro-fitting of sites, new costs, etc. For companies with rich internet Web 2.0 apps using Ajax, this will be a bit of a speed bump for them as they will need to web accessify their apps which could slow them down. Ajax has, in the past, gotten a bit of a bad wrap for accessibility. Already, companies with government contracts are required to make their sites accessible. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has some information on this stuff and other requirements around S.508 compliance. I believe Yahoo is one company which actually has a disabled person on their UI/dev team whom they check the accessibility of their sites against. Perhaps, content management systems (CMS's) will be required to make alt text required for images inputted by content contributors.

Here are some tips for making your site accessible:

Source: Web Guild

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