February 6, 2017 8:00 am

By Elva Coffey-Sears, CRCM

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) has had little press since it was signed into law on July 26, 1990 – at least until now. The ADA is designed to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities and to provide them with equal access to employment, physical facilities, and goods and services as what is provided to individuals without those disabilities. While the ADA has five separate titles, only two apply to financial institutions: Title I addressing employment; and Title III addressing public accommodations.

ADA Employment requirements are under the purview of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), while Title III (and certain other Titles) falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice (DOJ). In July 1991, the EEOC issued the initial employment-related implementing regulations and the DOJ issued regulations addressing physical access requirements.

In 2010, the DOJ determined that equal access should extend to website access as well as physical access, despite the fact that neither the ADA nor existing regulations specifically address website access. In conjunction with this, the DOJ issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) requesting comments relating to regulatory amendments addressing requirements for websites for governmental entities (Title II) and public accommodations (Title III – which include financial institutions). In early 2016, the DOJ withdrew the 2010 ANPR and issued a Supplemental ANPR (SANPR) requesting comments regarding requirements for accessibility for governmental entities’ websites, and indicating that regulations relating to public accommodations will be issued separately after the regulations for governmental entities are finalized.

So why, if regulations are still pending, is ADA a hot topic now? The answer is because there has been an increase in lawsuits filed against businesses on behalf of clients with disabilities for failure to provide equal access via their websites. In response, the American Bankers Association and other industry associations have issued notices that litigation has been threatened or filed against banks and other entities for failure to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The Guidelines are available at: https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/?currentsidebar=%23col_customize

How would your website stack up against the Guidelines?

ABS is here to assist with your compliance needs! Contact us at (405) 607-7000.