WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

Target.com lawsuit moves forward

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.


  1. Tim

    It is not certain that US courts will overturn previous decisions that the internet is not covered by the act as it is not a physical place.


    A review of the Target website with sopme screenshots, what the hell are they doing? A child with a copy of Dreamweaver could not make a bigger mess than Target.



  2. Dennis

    In my opinion, the judge should lean towards the NFB since e-commerce is so popular and such a vital part of the economy. And you’d think such a large retailer like Target would be making every effort to make their site accessible–it would satisfy the 10% of the surfers they’ve ignored, and would have avoided a lot of bad press. And Tim, I’d agree, their site is sure could use an overhaul. It’s a good example of HTML Soup–a sloppy mix of old, new, and proprietary code.

  3. Ed

    Title 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that:

    ‘Restaurants, hotels, theaters, shopping centers and malls, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, day care centers, and other similar places of public accommodation may not discriminate on the basis of disability. 28 CFR 36.201. Effective Date: January 26, 1992, unless otherwise noted below.’

    Americans with Disabilities Act
    Target’s online store is clearly a retail store, they exchange goods for currency. The only exception Target might have claimed was that the site has not undergone any ‘alterations’ since the effective date and so is grandfathered. But the source code for the shopping cart was modified after the target (pun) date according to this reference on the cart page ‘Copyright (c) 2004-2006 Amazon.com, Inc.,’. So, the point is Target is bound by the ADA rules, they did upgrade the site after effective date, and they should quit whining and fix the code. Target, be a leader and not the web poster child for ill informed penny pinching!

  4. Nigel

    Unfortunately I expect Target to lose.