The case of the National Federation of the Blind v. Target should send a bone-chilling shiver down the back of an e-commerce website owner. Jeffery Bashaw’s (University of Washington School of Law, Class of 2008) legal abstract makes the message clear:
Get your website in line with the American Disabilities Act or get a lawyer…. A good one.
The case ended with Target Corporation paying out over $3 million with an additional 6 million dollars in a settlement fund to further compensate because their Target.com site was not easy to use by the blind. Not being accessible to the blind is a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And yes, websites are governed by this law.
Is it an e-commerce website? Then yes.
While you may think of Target as a normal store, the court proved that since Target.com extended services to Target customers and that it was considered a part of the stores. So it had to be ADA compliant.
What if my business is 100% online, am I OK?
Nope. Those are included too. A good example is the Attorney General of New York v. Priceline.com for failing to have a blind accessible website. Priceline.com settled the lawsuit before any ruling was even made. Be afraid e-commerce site owners, be very afraid.
But how could this be legal?
Department of Justice’s Amicus Curiae states that the definition of public accommodation includes entities that operate solely on the Internet. 100% online sites are public accommodations as defined by the ADA. Every website is governed under these rulings.
The visually impaired use browsers that will read the page and all image names. The browsers must be able to correctly read the page and lead the individual on where to click. Parts of Target’s site was gibberish as random image names were read and user’s couldn’t figure out where the pointer at all times.
It’s time to save yourself from lawsuits and get working on your site.
Is there any good news to come from this ruling?
In the case of Target, they were able to save face by becoming compliant and was given an award by The National Federation of the Blind to commend their work on making their site accessible. All it took was 2 years of work, countless dollars spent on fixing the problem and the massive settlement.
Side benefit: organic search engine optimization benefits
The real good news is adding in the ADA compliant fixes also have SEO benefits for your website. This allows more visitors to find your website through searches on Google.com and other search engines. Effective search engine optimization can be the difference of little to no traffic to your website becoming a household name.
Don’t wait for your site to be investigated by the Department of Justice or an Attorney General. Get into compliance now and save your company from potential headaches down the road.
There are countless excuses for why this might not be a focus for your company, but none of them are worth the potential fines you may receive for non-compliance.
Is your content management system too old? Get a new one! Are you not properly staffed for this project? Find some efficiency tools and hire an intern!
The SEO side benefits alone are enough to get your site into compliance today!