In 2011, an amendment to the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requiring ATM owners to install audio-based capabilities for easy access of blind and vision impaired customers has caused a debacle in the banking sector. The requirements actually imposed by the Department of Justice on 15 September 2010, took effect in March of 2011, with updates to all ATMs at banks and credit unions required to be in compliance with the ADA guidelines by March 2012.
With the deadline long past, the 2011 reform has resulted in multi-state class action lawsuits across the United States. Literally hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in federal court since March 2012 by multiple law firms. There has been some confusion about preemption of lawsuits filed on behalf of plaintiffs in cross-jurisdiction complaints, yet federal law provides for enforcement of the regulation more generally, and including subsequent plaintiffs involved in future class action against banks and credit unions.
The ADA reform was instituted to ensure that all bank and credit union customers and members would have equal access at all ATMs. Customers must be able to conduct transactions and other user interactions the same as standard users. Account balances, transaction histories and other key information must be available in text-to-speech mode according to the ADA guidelines.
ADA Technical Compliance Details:
Braille Instructions – speech mode recognition must be provided for initiation of ATM transactions and requests to include Braille decals or signage at each ATM.
Display Screen – location of the display screen must be 40” (1015 mm) above the floor, in front of the machine. Screens must exhibit Sans serif font 3/16” (4.8 mm), exclusively and must contrast with the background.
Input Controls – tactile in discernment so that customers can control functions by hand. Key surfaces not on display screens are to be raised above other surfaces on the control panel.
Numeric Keypads – a 12-key ascending or descending keypad layout, with the number five ‘5’ key distinct from other keys upon touch.
Speech Output – enabled for operating instructions and orientation, display information, error messages, user input verification, and visible transaction prompts. Speech delivery is to be digitized human, recorded, or synthesized, and compatible with industry standard connectors and telephone handsets.
Privacy – Audio output instruction must be private not public, to protect the privacy of the ATM user. The ATM should also provide screen blanking whereas the screen will go blank during a voice guided transaction, again to protect the ATM user’s privacy.
Reach Height – The controls for the ATM need to be within reach ranges, including a height not exceeding 48 inches and no lower than 15 inches. Some ATMs may be grand-fathered in for this portion of the ADA compliance, depending upon installation dates. Contact your local ATM vendor to survey your ATM fleet for any and all ATM compliance concerns or questions.
The recent focus on ATM violations of ADA rules in representation of disabled individuals has resulted in hundreds of class action filings across the United States. It is said that the attorney fees derived from these deep pocket lawsuits have been exceptionally expensive for those financial institutions found not to be in compliance. The DOJ may also file suits in federal court to enforce compliance with access requirements. A court may award civil penalties, up to $55,000 for a first violation and up to $110,000 for subsequent violations. Courts may also order compensatory damages to remedy discrimination or injunctive relief, including mandatory orders to comply with accessibility requirements. For claims under both Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the prevailing party may recover reasonable attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and costs, pursuant to 25 CFR §135.175 and 26 CFR §36.505.
Many ATMs can be upgraded while others will require ATM replacements in order to meet the ADA compliance guidelines. Some ATM owners believe they are in compliance today but in fact they are not. Absolute Financial encourages each and every ATM owner to regularly test ALL ATM functions for complete and accurate voice guided transactions. What may have worked the day your ATM was upgraded or replaced, may not work now. Parts wear and break, networks change program loads — don’t be caught off guard. Be proactive and put policies in place to have your personnel or your ATM vendor survey and test your ATMs on a regular basis for ADA compliance.
Please feel free to call on Absolute Financial Services for any questions or assistance. I can be reached at (727) 753-0233 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Carl B. Schriber
Absolute Financial Services, Inc.
2251 Destiny Way, Unit #2
Odessa, FL 33556