An article the San Jose Mercury News explains in brief about a law suit being filed by a blind student over Taget’s web site. The seeing impaired use screen readers in order to navigate around web sites. The screen readers read the text on the site, but also read elements in the code that describe images (called alt tags). The suit also complains the site site “requires the use of a mouse”. Sites designed for accessibility would allow a visitor to use the keyboard for navigation.

If this suit goes forward it could set a precedent that will affect millions of web sites which are not compliant to accessibility standards. However, it’s not clear what the legal grounds are here. In the US the Federal Government has a legal responsibility to meet accessibility standards for web sites. But as far as I know that’s the only statute related to web sites. The UK has interpreted its Disability Act as applying to web sites in general though apparantly most are not compliant.

It can be a challenge to make a web site that meets accessible standards but one would think government web sites (state and local, not just federal) sites should work to meet those standards whether they are compelled by law or not. I wrote about the new City of Eureka web site earlier and was very surprised at how poorly it was designed and how badly it ignores accessibilty. So that’s the local angle on this post.

Update: Apparantly the Web Standards Project has picked up on this story. If you want more in-depth detail on what’s wrong with the Target site, you can read this post.