Target is being sued because their website is not accessible to blind internet users. The lawsuit is being brought forward by the National Federation of the Blind and one of its members, Bruce Sexton, a student at the University of California, Berkeley.

Target’s website is unquestionably NOT accessible. In fact, at the time the lawsuit was brought forward, there were portions of the site which could only be accessed with the use of a mouse. This was a very extreme – usually, even an inaccessible site will not have managed to make it entirely impossible to access something without a mouse. In addition to this egregious mistake, (and it IS a mistake), the site also failed to provide alt texts for images and inaccessible image maps for some navigation.

The NFB states that "[they] tried to convince Target that it should make its website accessible through negoations", but that the negotiations were ineffective. Their first complaint was submitted to Target in May of 2005, and the site remains unchanged.

There are a number of articles available discussing this issue – but one I would particularly recommend is a summary at DailyTech. Not because the summary itself is stellar – but the comments posted to the article are very revealing.

Personally, I couldn’t read them all – it was too infuriating. There are many people out there who have no concern for the rights of disabled individuals, and no respect for the mission of accessibility. There are others who are clearly ignorant of what it means to make a site accessible. One comment reads:

There are plenty of aspects of computers that blind people can’t take advantage of. This isn’t because of a flaw with computers, it’s because of a flaw in the person’s ability to see. Does that mean we have to dumb down the computer experience to the point at which a blind person can use it? Or does it simply mean that we do what we can to allow them to take advantage of some aspect of the experience?

No! No, we do NOT have to dumb down the computer experience! In fact, there is no need whatsoever to create a site which isn’t beautiful, exciting, and communicative. Accessibility has to do with providing alternatives and incorporating meaningful information into your document. Blind is not equal to stupid. A colleague of mine through GAWDS has established a site to showcase beautiful accessible web design – If you doubt that accessibility can mean beautiful, check it out.