Banking

Plaintiffs attorneys are using the ADA to sue companies for their lack of web accessibility, including banks. Not only are courts finding that their websites and web content are inaccessible, but also their ATMs. Title III of the ADA specifically requires public accommodations to provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication absent an undue burden or fundamental alteration to the goods and services. Financial institutions with little financial burden are extremely susceptible to this litigation and are expected to have fully accessible web content.

Many banks and financial institutions will at one stage receive a demand letter from a plaintiff’s attorney who feels otherwise. While it might be hard to envisage how to solve this issue, you do need to act upon it. If you receive a demand letter, it might be to claim that your organization is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That’s a serious allegation.

The ADA

For one, you do need to take this seriously. It’s not just something that you can push aside or ignore: it’s a genuine legal violation. Working with a professional who can help you to meet ADA requirements is very important to your functionality and reputation as a business. This isn’t a new piece of legislation, after all. The ADA was first passed in 1990, meaning that the terminology does not explicitly mention websites. However, there have been numerous websites found in violation of the ADA. Presently, the ADA applies to your website, apps, and any kind of online platform that you use – including social media. The more accessible your website is, the less likely you will be to receive a demand letter. The Department of Justice has regularly been on the side of those looking for changes. They see the issues that you face as important violations that need to be overcome, and a failure to do so could become a significant issue for your business.

What can I do to meet ADA compliance?

Since the ADA is a federal civil right law, you need to be able to act in accordance with its needs. However, currently, the ADA does not have specific guidelines for web accessibility so, in most courtrooms, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is the presiding standard for accessibility. If your business does not, then this could become a noose around the neck of your business.

In most cases, to meet basic WCAG requirements, your web content must maintain AA compliance levels, though AAA compliance is always recommended. Indeed, thanks to cases such as Gil v. Winn-Dixie, there is a higher number of litigation cases being opened in this case. The precedent has been set in many other industries, and financial institutions are no different

Since a website can be considered a place of public accommodation, you need to achieve the levels and standards expected. If you would like to know more of the kind of changes that you may need to make, then the DOJ often refers to the World Wide Web Consortium’ Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

This precedent was set in the August 2016 case against the University of California Berkeley. As such, it would be advised that you try to adjust your website and apps to fit with the WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines, at least. Typically, an AAA level website would include:

  •    Use of sign language with pre-recorded audio content provided.
  •    Extensive and clear audio descriptions, with alternatives for all media provided.
  •    Audio-only alternatives to help those with audio limitations to navigate.
  •    Color and text control for easier contrast and management.
  •    Written content staying within 80 characters per block.
  •    The website should be fully controllable via keyboard control.
  •    Minimization of the use of timing or interruptions during usage.
  •    Simple authentication without loss of data afterward.
  •    Easy management and explanation of abbreviations and pronunciations.
  •    A high reading level of at least 9th-grade level.

You should look to work with professionals to improve your accessibility and overall compliance with the ADA. This can help to increase revenue streams and help remove the risk of litigation for failure to comply with the modern best practice. However, web accessibility isn’t only important to further your business’ profits. It’s also about giving everyone the chance to feel like they are wanted by your business.