Recent years have seen an increase in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims being asserted against banks and other businesses. The initial wave of claims involved accessibility issues at automated teller machines. In recent months, a new wave of claims involving website compliance with the ADA has arisen. Many of these claims have been made on behalf of sight-impaired persons asserting the failure of websites to comply with the ADA.
In the recent article “Companies Face Lawsuits Over Website Accessibility for Blind Users,” the Wall Street Journal noted that over 240 businesses nationwide have had these types of claims asserted against them. The article further notes that most claims are settled quickly for “between $10,000 and $75,000.” Unfortunately, the legal status of these types of claims is muddled because there is a split among the federal courts regarding whether websites are subject to the ADA, and the Justice Department, which is charged with enforcing the ADA, has not issued promised website compliance guidelines.
Although Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and California have seen 95 percent of the lawsuits involving these claims, it is likely that they will be spreading to other states. Further, reports have indicated the focus of these claims will shift to the websites of community banks. The first notice your financial institution might have of an issue might be a demand letter from a lawyer. If you receive a demand letter, it is important to promptly get your legal counsel involved to help you assess the risks and develop a response.
Changing your website is a big task – especially since your site, including your online banking service, is likely provided by one or more third-party service providers and you do not have control over how responsive a provider will be to your requests. So what can – or should – you do now? Although you may not be able to avoid a claim, the following are some steps you can take now to help manage your risk:
For further assistance, contact George Meinz or Andrew Steil by telephone at 320.252.4414, or by email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org .
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