Law School Case Brief
Nat'l Fed'n of the Blind v. Target Corp. - 452 F. Supp. 2d 946 (N.D. Cal. 2006)
Discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 12101 et seq., encompasses the denial of the opportunity, by the disabled, to participate in programs or services, and providing the disabled with separate, but unequal, goods or services. 42 U.S.C.S. § 12182(b)(1)(A)(i-iii). To ensure that the disabled have full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services of places of public accommodation, the ADA requires reasonable modification of policies, practices, and procedures, the provision of auxiliary aids to ensure effective communication with the disabled, and the removal of architectural and communications barriers. 42 U.S.C.S. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii-iv). The ADA thus departs from certain anti-discrimination statutes in requiring that places of public accommodation take affirmative steps to accommodate the disabled. 42 U.S.C.S. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii-iv).
Plaintiffs, a blind individual and national and state advocacy group for the blind, filed a discrimination suit against defendant Target, national retailing chain, claiming that the retailer's website was inaccessible to the blind, and thereby, violates federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination against the disabled. According to plaintiffs, designing a website to be accessible to the blind was technologically simple and not economically prohibitive. Target filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
Is the retailer’s website considered a public accommodation within the meaning of the ADA?
The federal district court rejected Target's argument that the claims were not cognizable because they occurred away from a place of public accommodation, concluding that it was clear from the face of the complaint that many of the benefits and privileges of the website were services of the retailer's stores. To the extent that plaintiffs alleged that the inaccessibility of the retailer's website impeded the full and equal enjoyment of goods and services offered in the retailer's stores, they stated a claim, but they failed to state a claim under the ADA to the extent that the website offered information and services unconnected to the retailer's stores. Since plaintiffs stated a claim under the ADA, they stated a claim under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51 et seq., and the Disabled Persons Act (DPA), Cal. Civ. Code § 54 et seq., as well. The court found that it was inappropriate at the dismissal stage to assert a Commerce Clause violation based on the mere fact that the retailer, at the remedy stage, could have ultimately chosen to make its nationwide website accessible to the blind.
The district court granted the retailer's motion to dismiss the complaint in part to the extent that the website offered information and services unconnected to the retailer's stores, but the motion was denied in part to the extent that it was alleged that the inaccessibility of the retailer's website impeded the full and equal enjoyment of goods and services offered in the retailer's stores. The district court also denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.
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