Alone and easy target

Welcome, comrade, to a new post from the glittering proletarian utopia that is the People’s Republic of Jimbo. Yes, that’s right folks, all of a sudden I’m a socialist. Or so says avowed capitalist, libertarian (and, thus, Enemy of the People) Chris Beasley. He also states on his blog:

“…why not stop being antagonistic and just put me on your list of people to hate and leave it at that?”

My list of people to hate? I don’t have one. But I suppose my shiny new Socialist Republic needs one, if only to deal with counter-revolutionaries and other malcontents. I don’t know, precisely, what I’ll do to them but it’ll be something pretty darn nasty. Oh yes indeedy.

Chris is angry because of a lawsuit brought against the retail store Target on behalf of a blind customer, Bruce Sexton. Mr Sexton, a student at Berkeley, cannot shop online at Target because their website will not work with the screenreading software he uses to browse the web. He approached the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), who then approached Target on his behalf. The NFB negotiated with Target about making their online store accessible to blind people. Those negotiations broke down and the NFB took Target to court in California.

Under Californian State Law, a bricks-and-mortar business is required to make their place of business physically accessible to handicapped people. It is unclear whether the same law extends to online businesses. Under the Golden Rule, however, it’s possible that a court may decide that the intention, rather than literal meaning, of the law may be that businesses in California should not discriminate against whom they do business, on the basis of disability, regardless of the physical circumstance. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Chris Beasley argues that the NFB’s motive in this case is greed, not accessibility for blind people. They have brought the case to reap huge damages and live off the profits. To my mind, only one type of person gets rich off of legal action – lawyers. If this case is resolved on behalf of the NFB, I’ll bet the majority of the damages will go to covering their legal costs. Samuel Johnson, I think, said it best:

“There ambush here relentless ruffians lay,
And here the fell attorney prowls for prey.”

It’s unfortunate that this has gone as far as a legal action. I don’t believe that suing companies under existing disability legislation is the best way to promote web accessibility. The business case for accessibility alone should be enough to convince any rational capitalist. An accessible website lowers your costs and wins you extra customers. In this case, Target were approached out-of-court about the inaccessibility of their website. When that approach failed, the next step was, unfortunately, legal action.