Removing Barriers Blog

CUNA Continues to Seek ADA Clarification
Posted May 21, 2018 by CUNA Advocacy

On May 17, 2018, at CUNA’s request, House Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) submitted a successful manager’s amendment to the Fiscal Year 2019 House CJS bill full committee markup.  Included in this amendment was CUNA requested language regarding Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance on the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) website accessibility.  The amendment states,

In the report, under “Legal Activities, Salaries and Expenses, General Legal Activities”, insert the following new paragraph:

Website Accessibility. – The Committee expects the Department to clarify standards for website accessibility requirements pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act in fiscal year 2019.  The Committee recognizes the confusion caused by a lack of uniform website accessibility standards.  The lack of clear requirements disadvantages small businesses that provide essential services for our communities.

CUNA and state credit union leagues have been actively engaged in combating frivolous lawsuits and demand letters that credit unions are facing concerning website accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Together, CUNA and state credit union Leagues in Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and Alabama have filed multiple amicus briefs supporting credit unions facing litigation. 

How many credit unions have been affected? 

  • Over 1000 credit unions or over 17% of the market have received demand letters claiming ADA violations due to website accessibility issues. 
  • Credit unions in 28 states and the District of Columbia have received demand letters. 
  • As of April 2018, there have already been over 400 demand letters sent to credit unions, compared to just over 400 in all of 2017 
  • To date, over 50 lawsuits have been filed against credit unions regarding this matter 

At least 10 suits have been voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff for lack of standing (plaintiff was not eligible for the credit unions field of membership) or mootness (the credit union’s website had been updated).

Often the same law firms and lawyers will target many different credit unions, even under the guise of seeking protection for non-members of the credit union that could arguably have no reason for even wanting to access the website. These shakedowns are harming credit unions and their members and are making it difficult for credit unions to serve all members including those who are protected by the ADA.  Perversely, the threats of litigation are having the exact opposite effect of increasing the ability to provide services to all members.   

In addition to legal advocacy, CUNA continues to engage with Congress and the Department of Justice, and to work with like-minded stakeholders facing similar waves of predatory litigation alleged under the ADA. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 and since that time our society and the way we live our lives have become increasingly dominated by the internet.  While the ADA is important and necessary for the wellbeing of those protected by it, there is not sufficient guidance concerning how it pertains to website use. 

Unfortunately, the lack of guidance has left credit unions and businesses open to frivolous class action litigation.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) began the process of developing regulations to address this gap in 2010, with an advance notice of proposed rulemaking.  Unfortunately, the DOJ never completed the rulemaking process and recently declared this effort “inactive”.  

CUNA has thanked Chairman Culberson for his assistance in forcing the DOJ to provide answers on this issue so that credit unions and others can comply with the ADA and also avoid predatory litigation.