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Noncompliant ATMs Subject to Lawsuits under ADA
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 9:00 AM

Are your ATMs compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? If not, it's worth noting that in Houston, a prolific plaintiff's lawyer has filed a slew of lawsuits alleging that credit unions are in violation of the ADA provisions which require ATMs to be accessible to the visually impaired.

According to the Credit Union Journal, Pittsburgh attorney R. Bruce Carlson, who has already sued more than three dozen credit unions for ADA violations, last week filed new suits on behalf of legally blind consumers in Houston. Some of the ADA suits that Carlson has filed have been joined by Blind Ambitions, a Delaware group that calls itself an advocacy for the blind.

The latest Houston claims come as many credit unions are moving to settle suits by agreeing to make the necessary upgrades to satisfy the ATM requirements of the ADA, without paying class action damages or fines. Court records show that most of the ADA settlements include agreement to upgrade any noncompliant ATMs with the required braille keyboard and earphone plus to make the machines accessible to the visually impaired and to provide regular monitoring and reporting on compliance.

The Credit Union Journal article said the only expenses appear to be the lawyers’ fees the credit unions have agreed to pay, at an average of around $25,000 each. Court documents indicate that the settlements also come with agreements to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees. In contrast, many of the dozens of suits over ATM fee disclosures required credit unions to pay financial compensation and/or damages to one or a class of consumers and charitable contributions to favored non-profits, as well as lawyers’ fees.

Major changes to the ADA guidelines were made in September, 2010. Those changes included requirements for voice guidance, braille signage, and privacy measures, such as "blank screen." There are many are many other requirements for ADA compliance, such as proper installation for height and reach, clearance in front of the machine, and proper screen design, and credit unions can obtain a copy of those guidelines from www.access-board.gov.

Just the possibility of lawsuits only underscores the need for compliance. If credit unions have any doubts about whether or not your ATMs are in compliance with ADA, please refer to the League's compliance manual HERE.