ATLANTA (3/14/13)--A class action lawsuit filed in a federal court in Atlanta alleges that two bank branches do not meet the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements for serving blind customers.
The suit was filed Feb. 28 by a law firm that represented plaintiffs in a number of the lawsuits filed over the past two years against credit unions and banks about missing ATM fee signage that allegedly violated the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA). The volume of those lawsuits prompted the Credit Union National Association to seek legislation to remove the signage requirement, which President Barack Obama signed into law at the end of 2012.
CUNA is warning that, if the EFTA cases are any guide, this lawsuit could be the start of a trend as plaintiffs' lawyers seek out ADA violators. CUNA recommends that credit unions use this case as an opportunity to check their compliance with ADA regulations concerning ATMs. (For more information on how to comply with these regulations, use the resource links to CUNA's compliance e-Guide, CompBlog and Credit Union Magazine at the bottom of this article.)
In the suit, a blind woman alleges she was denied access at two ATMs owned and operated by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Branch Banking and Trust Co. (BB&T) in Snellville, Ga., and Lilburn, Ga. The machines had no voice-guidance feature, included no Braille instructions for initiating speech mode, and the function keys did not have tactile symbols required under the ADA.
The complaint states that "if a given ATM does not include the accessibility features that are mandated by federal law, blind consumers like plaintiff cannot use the ATM independently and are thus faced with the prospect of having to share private banking information with other individuals to complete a banking transaction at the ATM." A similar invasion of privacy argument was used in several earlier ADA lawsuits against credit unions and banks.
The complaint noted that on a previous occasion when the plaintiff requested assistance in making an ATM withdrawal and provided her personal identification number, her ATM card was stolen and her account looted.
"Though defendant has centralized policies regarding the management and operation of its ATMs, defendant does not have a plan or policy that is reasonably calculated to cause its ATMs to be in timely compliance with Chapter 7 of the 2010 Standards," said the court document.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction and payment of attorney's fees.