Federal District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled that the lawsuit filed against Target.com by the National Federation for the Blind may move forward. Target had requested a motion for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that the American’s with Disabilities Act, the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California Disabled Persons Act only applied to its bricks and mortar stores, not to its online presence. The judge dismissed the motion, saying, “the ‘ordinary meaning’ of the ADA’s prohibition against discrimination in the enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges, is that whatever goods or services the place provides, it cannot discriminate on the basis of disability in providing enjoyment of those goods and services.” Thus the offering of Target goods and services through their web site are covered under these civil rights laws.
While this is not a final ruling on the suit, but only a ruling on the motion to dismiss the case, it does set a strong precedence that online stores are covered by civil rights laws.
The NFB press release headline indicates, “retailers must make their websites accessible to the blind under the ADA.” But from my interpretation of the ruling, this statement is too broad. The ruling simply states that the federal and state civil rights laws DO apply to internet-based goals and services. This ruling provides a powerful clarification that many in the accessibility field have been seeking for some time.
As the case proceeds, we will keep you up-to-date.