A Pittsburg law firm, Carlson Lynch Sweet, Kilpela and Carlson, sent demand letters to banks across the country alleging their bank website does not comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG - 2). We have reason to believe the number of these lawsuits will rapidly climb and want our Arkansas bankers to be on alert.
The issue is whether your website has made accommodations to allow persons with disabilities to “read” what is on your site. Lawsuits have been and will be filed target banks of all sizes in an attempt to persuade banks to settle these claims, which include costs and attorney fees.
Our colleagues at the Colorado Bankers Association shared that more than 60 cases have been filed against Colorado restaurants charging that they violated this requirement. They also report that litigation has expanded beyond the technical violations and is now often focused on ADA-related website accommodation. In one case, a Colorado company incurred a $4,000 penalty and more than $100,000 in attorney fees because it was not in compliance with the statutory provisions. A number of realty companies are also facing litigation from this law firm and cases against banks are climbing.
Incredibly, there are no published rules or regulations regarding ADA compliance for websites as yet; the regulations are expected to be released in 2018. The demand letters are based on noncompliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG – 2.
The organization being used to file claims is the Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities Foundation, Inc. The Foundation is a relatively new LLC, having filed paperwork with the AZ Secretary of State in January 2016. It appears to be owned by the Advocates for American Disabled Individuals Trust (AID) also formed in January of 2016. The main focus of the foundation seems to be litigation.
The AID website contains a How to Find a Violation checklist:
The AID Foundation represents persons with disabilities who have been denied the right of access and or rights granted though the ADA. An extensive ADA Checklist of Existing Facilities can be found here. If you have experienced or if you become personally aware of a facility that does not comply with the ADA requirements outlined in the ADA Checklist of Existing Facilities, please fill out an Investigation Request Form and we will look into investigate the violations. This quote is from the AID website.
The list provided in the link above is very detailed and may be used by banks and other businesses as a guide for violations.
We are looking for potential solutions for our member banks and their partners. There are several things we are going to do in conjunction with our colleagues in other states:
- Seek allies from the disabled community because frivolous litigation takes money away from actual compliance, which is what they want and need;
- Look for other business groups as allies – all businesses are impacted by this new issue;
- Look for a federal legislative solution;
- We will look at what, if anything, we can do at the state level but a state solution is unlikely (see HB1983 for potential help);
- Alert banks and other businesses in an effort to help them minimize their exposure;
- Collect information regarding claimants, plaintiffs and firms involved in these claims/suits.
If you have received a letter/settlement agreement regarding ADA website compliance, please contact me at Bill.Holmes@arkbankers.org.