/ May 19, 2008

Civil Rights In Cyberspace

A nationwide class action suit being filed by the National Federation for the Blind could eventually change the design of most websites running today. The NFB has filed suit against Target for a lack of compliance with certain protocol that provide access to websites for the blind. These provisions include access via keyboard controls as opposed to a mouse and compatibility with screen reader programs. The NFB has stated that by neglecting these features Target is discriminating against it’s blind consumers, a statement creating waves throughout the arenas of Civil Rights litigation and big business alike.

The basis for the suit comes from the American with Disabilities Act which guarantees access for all to the marketplace; the question in this case is whether or not this marketplace includes cyberspace. The NFB has recognized that the Target website is offered as a benefit rather than a public accommodation but will fight their case on the inability to access certain features including the store locater, various coupons and prescription refill forms. Target attempted to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the ADA does not specify any regulations for websites but this motion was denied.

Despite the movement forward of the class action suit, it will be no easy task for the firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy to win this case but due to the unprecedented nature of this case both the NFB and Brown, Goldstein & Levy realize that a definitive win may not be necessary to make a difference for the blind. Whether or not damages are awarded in this case, the mere presence of it is making big businesses rethink and redesign their webpages. It is not as much the fines that businesses are afraid of but the potential loss of customers over the issue. Companies such as Amazon are already working with the NFB to make appropriate changes to their sites.

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