Community banks and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Jesse Johnston, Iowa Banking Law, Dickinson Law Firm, Des Moines Iowa

Posted on 05/05/2017 at 12:00 AM by Jesse Johnston

Title Ill of the ADA provides that "no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations ... by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation." A bank is included in the definition of "place of public accommodation." This means that Banks are expected to ensure that all people with disabilities are able to access bank ATMs and web services.

In 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) published rules regarding ADA standards for access to ATMs. The DOJ has not yet provided clear direction on what is required of places of public accommodation with respect to website accessibility. In the interim, banks should follow the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Specifically, banks must ensure that services are offered through the website can be accessed by the visually impaired, and this may include creating text transcripts and providing accessibility for assistive technologies to all Java applets, scripts and plug-ins (including PDF files, word documents, etc). The choice for auxiliary aid or service belongs to the bank-as long as its effective.

Title Ill can be enforced by the DOJ, but can also be enforced by private citizens through lawsuits. Smaller community banks and regional banks have seen a recent uptick in both letters from out-of-state law firms requiring compliance and possible test-cases with potential out-of-state customers requesting accessibility assistance.

If your bank receives a letter from an attorney or an individual regarding your websites non-compliance with ADA requirements, you should reach out to your legal counsel for advice. If you receive a request from an individual seeking assistance with access to your website, you should also contact your attorney to ensure that you respond to the request appropriately.  Sometimes these individual’s request for help in accessing a banking product through your website can lead to further legal action where a bank employee does not understand the full scope of ADA protections.

The material in this blog is not intended, nor should it be construed or relied upon, as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney if specific legal information is needed.

- Jesse Johnston


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