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Attention Ecommerce site owners!

A U.S. District Court ruled yesterday that:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to the Internet: Ecommerce websites must be accessible to the blind.
  • The class-action lawsuit launched against Target by the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) may proceed to trial.

The NFB claimed that Target's website is not properly accessible to the blind, in violation of the ADA (as well as two California statutes). Yesterday's ruling was a huge step forward in their case.

This should serve as a wake-up call to Ecommerce site owners: make your sites accessible to the blind, or face expensive consequences.

What's a site owner to do?

The good news (to site owners) is that making sites accessible is something they should be doing anyway. The simple fact is, many features that make websites accessible to the blind also make them more accessible to sighted users. For example:

  • Proper use of alt tags to describe images
  • Simple layout, easy to use navigation
  • Direct and concise copywriting
  • Minimal forced device switching (keyboard/mouse)

Also, in the long-term, it's now more cost effective develop an accessible, properly built-site. Inaccessible sites using spacer gifs and clumsy table layouts end up being enormous headaches for developers, and get progressively worse with updates.

In comparison, accessible sites that separate code and design into different HTML and CSS files are much easier to update and redesign.

The bottom line?

The latest Target ruling makes it clear: website accessibility to the blind is not just “the right thing to do”. It's a legal requirement.

However, making websites accessible is not as onerous as it sounds. It's something you should be doing anyway, for reasons beyond accessibility to the blind.