Compliance Center: Recent Series of Lawsuits Focus on Website Inaccessibility

As CUNA Mutual detailed in a recent Risk Alert, these demand letters and lawsuits allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) due to inaccessible websites for either visually impaired or hearing impaired individuals. And this is after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will not issue any Title III regulations of public accommodations websites until 2018. The DOJ has taken the stance that the obligation to have an accessible website has always existed, even without any new regulations.

These lawsuits are capitalizing on this uncertainty and may become more frequent than lawsuits alleging ATM noncompliance with the ADA’s requirements.

The lawsuits generally either contend that websites contain digital barriers that limit the ability of visually impaired to access the site, or that certain audio files are not available in a format that a hearing impaired person can access. For the visually impaired, these individuals rely on assistive technology, like a screen reader, to convert the website text to synthesized speech they can hear. For screen readers to work, the web developer must program the website for compatibility.

While the continued pressure to bring websites into compliance with a standard that no law currently requires and won’t be published until 2018 might seem like an untenable position for a credit union to be in, credit unions should perform a risk assessment on their websites and applications to identify if the content and services are accessible and compatible with assistive technology before receiving a demand letter citing the ADA’s general principle of “equal access.”

There are several tools available to assist credit unions in identifying and making the web content accessible to individuals with disabilities:

ADA Best Practices Tool Kit Chapter 5 – Website Accessibility Under Title II of the ADA

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0

Compliance Question of the Week

We have a member who is both hearing and sight impaired. They are telling us that under the ADA laws, financial institutions are required to have TTY lines. Is this correct?

Yes and no.

The ADA requirements for auxiliary aids and services require credit unions as a public accommodation to take necessary steps to ensure that no member with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids.

A TTY is an example of an auxiliary aid.

The regulations further states that when a public accommodation uses an automated-attendant system, including, but not limited to, voicemail and messaging, or an interactive voice response system, for receiving and directing incoming telephone calls, that system must provide effective real-time communication with individuals using auxiliary aids and services, including text telephones (TTYs) and all forms of FCC-approved telecommunications relay systems, including Internet-based relay systems.

This is the yes.

As for the no:

(5) This part does not require a public accommodation to use a TTY for receiving or making telephone calls incident to its operations.

You are required to treat a relay service call as if it came directly from the member.

Related Links:

Legal Briefs

National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)

The NCUA announced that it will hold a 90 minute webinar on Wednesday, March 9th for credit unions to learn how mergers can be an effective growth strategy. Participants can register here.

NCUA Vice Chair Metsger delivered prepared remarks at CUNA’s GAC, laying out the important and achievable goals for the NCUA in 2016.

The NCUA announced that it has rolled out a new tool called “What is a Credit Union?” which is available on mycreditunion.gov.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

CFPB Director Cordray delivered prepared remarks at CUNA’s GAC. During his remarks, Cordray commented on the success of the mortgage rules, the benefits of the new rules, and stated that the industry should view the CFPB as a friend and ally to financial institutions.

CFPB Director Cordray delivered prepared remarks at the Consumer Advisory Board Meeting. During his remarks, Cordray focused on the two main objectives of the CFPB: infrastructure and tangible value to consumers. In addition to the objectives, Cordray also laid out nine goals that represent key areas where the CFPB hopes to make significant progress over the next two years.

The CFPB posted a blog entry that provides tips on how consumers can ovoid overdraft fees.

Federal Reserve Board (FRB)

The FRB released the minutes of its January 2016 discount rate meeting.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

The FATF updated its 2009 Guidance on a Risk-Based Approach for Money Service Businesses to bring it into line with the 2012 FATF recommendations. The guidance is aimed at helping financial institutions apply the risk-based approach to their money or value transfer services clients.

Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)

The FHFA announced that it adjusted the cap on average total assets that defines a “Community Financial Institution” to $1,128,000,000 based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

OFAC has updated the SDN list as of February 16, 2016. The last update prior to this was February 11, 2016.

Questions? Contact the Compliance Hotline: 1.800.546.4465, compliance@nwcua.org.

Posted in Compliance News, NCUA.