Banks Targeted for Website Accessibility
Compliance and Risk Reduction Tips from Accessible360
In 2016 many banks, credit unions, and similar financial service organizations across the country have received demand letters claiming that the organization’s website is non-accessible to blind and other disabled persons and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). The letters are sent by a small number of law firms including Carlson Lynch law firm in Pennsylvania, the Lee Litigation Group in New York, and firms in Florida and California.
We know this because we work directly with multiple bank and financial services companies in testing and improving their websites in response to these demands.
Although the ADA itself was passed in 1990 and does not discuss websites, multiple courts have held that the ADA does apply to websites and requires websites and similar technology such as apps to be accessible to blind and other disabled persons. (Example, National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix.) The U.S. Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) has taken the position repeatedly in public documents and enforcement actions that the ADA applies to websites, including bank websites, and that such websites should meet the standards described in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, level AA. (Example, DOJ “Consent Decree” H&R Block, 2014.)
In sum: banks, credit unions, and other financial institutes with websites that do not meet the WCAG 2.0 AA requirements are vulnerable to class action and other lawsuits as well as DOJ enforcement actions.
Accessible360 has helped multiple banking and financial services companies improve their websites, to make them accessible to disabled users and to meet the WCAG2.0AA requirements.
Actions you may want to consider include:
- Obtain a professional audit of the accessibility of your website and how it performs with screen-reader technology from Accessible360 or another experienced firm. (The U.S. government has confirmed that automated scanning tools alone are not sufficient.)
- Identify and remediate issues under WCAG 2.0 AA, such as:
- Provide text alternatives (“alt text”) for images or other non-text content.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard (not only through use of a mouse).
- Provide captions for videos.
- Provide alternatives for time-based media.
- Use consistent design and navigation.
- Before you make any changes to your website, preserve an evidence-quality copy of your website, so that you are not guilty of “spoliation of evidence” / failure to preserve evidence after notice of a dispute.
- Consult with a qualified attorney. Although at Accessible360 we are aware of the law, we do not provide legal advice.
- Test your “improved” website, to ensure that the accessibility issues have in-fact been resolved.
- Continue to monitor your website over time, to ensure that as the website changes, it remains accessible.