updated 10/3/2007 4:33:09 PM ET 2007-10-03T20:33:09

A federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging that Target Corp. is breaking California and federal law by failing to make its Web site usable for the blind.

The plaintiffs fault Target for not adopting technology used by other companies to make Web sites accessible to the blind. The technology allows reading software to vocalize invisible code embedded in computer graphics and describe content on a Web page.

Granting class-action status allows blind people throughout the country who have tried to access Target.com to become plaintiffs in the suit, which alleges violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Judge Marilyn Hall Patel also on Friday approved a separate class, made up of blind California residents who have attempted to use the site, to address the suit's charges that Target is violating state laws governing civil and disabled rights.

"This is a tremendous step forward for blind people throughout the country who for too long 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."

The federation filed the suit — which originally was filed in California state court in February 2006 and moved at Target's request to San Francisco federal court the following month — on behalf of federation member and northern California resident Bruce Sexton. The suit alleged that "blind individuals have been and are being denied equal access to Target stores" and the "service and benefits offered to the public through Target.com."

Judge Patel's order Friday noted that Target has modified its Web site some since the suit's filing to make the site more accessible to the blind. Target claimed the suit should therefore be dismissed, but Judge Patel ruled against that argument.

A Target official couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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