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A California federal judge granted class action status in a discrimination case against Target Corp. for operating a Web site inaccessible to the blind. In an order filed on Oct. 2, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel authorized a nationwide class of all legally blind individuals in the U.S. who have tried to use Target.com and have been unable to shop online. The class will be able to pursue Americans with Disabilities Act claims. A subclass of blind individuals in California who have tried to access the company’s Web site can now pursue claims under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the state’s Disabled Persons Act. In its lawsuit, the National Federation of the Blind alleged that Target violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws by having a Web site that’s inaccessible to blind users. National Federation of the Blind v. Target, No. 06-01802 (N.D. Calif.) “There is no requirement that a plaintiff who encounters physical accessibility barriers — such as a wheelchair user who confronts a store without ramps at its entrance — must provide a shopping list of products available at the store in order to proceed with an ADA claim,” Patel wrote. “Rather, it is sufficient that the putative class members have alleged that they were denied access, by being diverted to another store, in order to meet the class definition.” The class certification is a “tremendous step forward” for blind people who have been denied equal access to the Internet economy, said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “All e-commerce businesses should take note of this decision and immediately take steps to open their doors to the blind,” Maurer said. Target’s attorneys at Morrison & Foerster referred inquiries to the company. Target spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter said class certification is a procedural step that doesn’t reflect a claims’ merits. Brookter also noted that the court ordered the federation of the blind to find a new class representative and that Target plans to request a review of the class certification ruling. “As our online business has evolved, we have made significant enhancements to improve the experience of our guests who use assistive technologies,” Brookter said.

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