Via Gameculture.com

On August 27, 2008, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Target announced a $6 mil settlement in a class-action lawsuit concerning the inaccessibility of the Target.com website to blind users.

A major bone of contention in the suit, filed by the NFB in February 2006, was whether the Americans with Disabilities Act applies only to physical spaces, or to virtual ones as well. Target argued:

"Target.com is not a place of public accommodation within the meaning of the ADA, and therefore plaintiffs cannot state a claim under the ADA. Specifically…the complaint is deficient because it does not allege that 'individuals with vision impairments are denied access to one of Target’s brick and mortar stores or the goods they contain.'” (PDF of the decision available at Disability Rights Advocates).

Nevertheless, the court found that the inaccessibility of Target.com "impedes the full and equal enjoyment of goods and services offered in Target stores." This finding has caused some to wonder how disability laws apply to virtual worlds. As Benjamin Duranske of Virtually Blind writes:

"Although the Target settlement is about a 2D website, not a virtual world, it has clear applicability to 3D spaces. The argument is that both state law (particularly California’s disability discrimination law) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 can be applied to compel greater accessibility to web-based services. Under this theory, educational and enterprise virtual-world users (such as colleges requiring student attendance in virtual-world classrooms and businesses with both “click” and “brick” presences) could also be obligated to make their virtual world builds more accessible to disabled users.

"This is one area where virtual law could lead more general internet law. From a practical perspective, a non-technical fact-finder is going to more easily see a 3D virtual classroom with seats, a lectern, and a big screen showing PowerPoint presentations as a “public accommodation” under the ADA or similar state laws than a less obviously analogous 2D website, wiki, or course blog."

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk grew up in a small Nebraska town called Papillion. Although she has a nonverbal learning disability that affects her visual-spatial skills (among other things), she's always loved video games. Her first game system was a Commodore Vic-20, which her mom bought at a garage sale for $20. With this little computer Tera learned to write Mad Libs in BASIC, to play chess and to steal gold from Fort Knox.

But then a friend introduced her to the seedy underworld of the Mario brothers and she spent her saved-up birthday and Christmas money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Her mom didn't like the Nintendo at first, but The Legend of Zelda changed her mind. (When Tera got Zelda II: The Adventure of Link one Christmas, she suspected it was as much for her mother as for her).

Though she graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2002 and recently learned how to find the movie theater restroom by herself, Tera still loves video games. Far from being a brain-rotting waste of time, they've helped her practice spatial skills and discover new passions. Her love of games like Kid Icarus and The Battle of Olympus led to a degree in Classical Languages and Literatures. She thinks games have a place in discussions on disability and other cultural issues, and is excited to work with the like-minded staff at GameCritics.com.
Tera Kirk

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