How Other Retailers Fare
With Accessibility"> Agreeing with Golesworthy is veteran retail technology analyst Paula Rosenblum, who today is a vice president with the Retail Systems Alert Group. "This lawsuit, assuming it is successful, is a double-edged sword. The beauty of government mandates and singular events like Y2K is they drive enterprises out of their short-term ROI mentalities," Rosenblum said. "Complying with new regulations will either be a huge distraction for retailers as they rush to comply with a government mandate, or will serve as an opportunity to not just comply with the mandate, but take the opportunity to clean up their online and cross-channel acts. This is long overdue."In Golesworthys latest study of the Web sites of the Fortune 100, his team found that only 12 sites were "fine," 52 had "real problems" and 36 were in the in-between "amber" stage, he said. Target was among the 52 with "real problems," and Wal-Mart was in the amber in-between zone. For the record, the 12 whose sites were found to indeed be ADA-friendly were three tech players (IBM, Microsoft and HP), three financial firms (Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Washington Mutual), three manufacturers (Delphi, Dow Chemicals and John Deere), one insurance company (Nationwide Mutual), a pharmaceutical (Johnson & Johnson), and one lone retailer: Walgreens. Golesworthys advice to Target is to give up and salvage as much of this mess as possible. "You basically fall on your sword and say, Were good people. Really," he said. Like all other corporate issues, this one resists being made neat and clean. For example, consumers are not neatly split into sighted and non-sighted. The visually impairedwhich includes colorblindnessis potentially a much bigger audience of lost consumers. "Some companies like to use their corporate colors, which not necessarily easy to read," Golesworthy said. But a complicated design is the biggest problem. Even with mouse-over alt-text, a design that relies on tables and formats will simply jump all over the place when the graphics are turned off, making it very difficult to navigate, he said. Another factor is the global market. The European Union has mandated strict accessibility rules for any retailer that wants to sell to Europeans. Those rules are slated to take effect in 2010. For multinational retailers, "youre going to have to do it eventually" so why fight it now, he asked. Why, indeed? Evan Schuman is retail editor for Ziff Davis Internets Enterprise Edit group. He has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop anytime soon. He can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.