Court allows class-action lawsuit against Target Web site

The suit was filed by the National Federation of the Blind

A US federal court judge has certified a class-action lawsuit against Target filed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

Judge Marilyn Patel, of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, certified the case as a class action on behalf of blind Internet users throughout the US under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to court documents. The class covered under the ruling includes people who tried without success to access Target.com and, as a result, have been denied access to "the enjoyment of goods and services offered in Target stores," according to court documents.

The judge denied the retailer's request for summary judgment in the case.

"The court talks about the nexus between the ability to use the Web site and the ability to use the store in the physical space, so it's not all blind users who want to use Target.com and it isn't all blind users who went into Target stores," said Eric Goldman, assistant professor and director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law. "It's those users who used the Web site as part of going to the stores."

Goldman said it's unclear what other Web sites might be covered by the ruling.

"This doesn't mean that the ADA applies to all Web sites, but on the other hand, if there's a bricks-to-clicks type of business and there is some integration of the experience between the two, I think the court is saying that those sites need to comply with the ADA," he said.

The lawsuit was filed last year as a class action on behalf of all blind Americans denied access to target.com. The plaintiffs in the case -- the NFB, the NFB of California and blind college student Bruce "BJ" Sexton -- claimed that the retailer's Web site is inaccessible to the blind, in violation of federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities.

In September 2006, Patel ruled that the accessibility lawsuit against Target could proceed.

"This is a tremendous step forward for blind people throughout the country, who for too long have been denied equal access to the Internet economy," Marc Maurer, the President of the National Federation of the Blind, said in a statement. "All e-commerce businesses should take note of this decision and immediately take steps to open their doors to the blind."

Larry Paradis, of Disability Rights Advocates, one of the lead counsels for the class, said the court's decision reinforces the view that people with disabilities can no longer be treated as second-class citizens.

Target officials could not be reached for comment.

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Linda Rosencrance

Computerworld

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