Target and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) have settled the lawsuit regarding accessibility of the Target.com web site. You can read the final settlement here.
A summary of the settlement
- Target makes no admission or concession that its website is or ever was inaccessible.
- Target admits no violations of the ADA or any other law.
- The website will be brought into compliance with the Target Online Assistive Technology Guidelines (2MB Word Doc) and will be certified by NFB as compliant with these guidelines. NFB will monitor compliance over 3 years from initial certification.
- Target will pay NFB $90,000 for the certification and first year of monitoring and then $40,000 per year thereafter.
- Target’s web developers will receive at least one day of accessibility training, to be provided by NFB at a cost of up to $15,000 per session.
- Target will respond to accessibility complaints from web site users.
- Target will pay damages of $6,000,000 to the class action claimants, or at most $7000 per claimant, and will pay $20,000 to the California Center for the Blind on behalf of the primary claimant, Bruce Sexton, Jr.
- Payment of legal fees is yet to be determined.
My thoughts on the settlement
While this is a great victory for the NFB and the claimants, I think the majority of the accessibility community was hoping for some long-awaited case law that might better define the relationship of the Internet and the Americans with Disabilities Act. While there have been many lawsuits claiming discrimination under the ADA because of inaccessible web sites, there is virtually no case law that clarifies that the ADA applies to web sites. This settlement clearly provides no additional insight into this matter. Instead of corporations receiving clarification that they are ALL legally obligated to make their web sites accessible, they can now take comfort in the fact that if they aren’t big/rich enough for NFB or others to engage in a complicated and expensive lawsuit, that they can maintain the status quo of, at best, marginal accessibility.
I also believe the 6 million dollar settlement to be rather insignificant for a corporation that had $63 billion in revenue and $3 billion in net income in 2007. Still, the settlement amount is significantly more than what it would have cost Target to implement a high level of accessibility in the first place.
Additionally, there is no indication that the Target accessibility guidelines include
anything much that would benefit anyone except blind users. While the NFB is a blind advocacy group, the scope of changes required are very minimal.
UPDATE: Since originally writing this post, the guidelines were made available. There are a few requirements, while primarily intended for blind and low vision users, that may provide benefits to those with other disabilities.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled with the outcome and I do think it will motivate the largest corporate retailers to take accessible a bit more seriously, but without clarification of their true legal obligation, I fear the influence of this settlement will not be very significant.