Removing Barriers Blog

CUNA and California Credit Union League Working with Congress for Guidance on Webpage ADA Compliance
Posted October 10,2017 by ManojBhoi

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.  Just last week, the CUTimes wrote about nine credit unions in Virginia have been hit with class-action lawsuits due to concerns over the accessibility of their website.  In addition to the nine in Virginia, there have been over 100 credit unions affected in California. 

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”.  

The California Credit Union League and CUNA are working with Representatives Eric Swalwall (D-CA) and Ron DeSaintis (R-FL) of the Judiciary Committee to draft and send a letter to the Attorney General asking him to complete this regulation that is currently “inactive.”  These two Representatives are circulating a Dear Colleague letter with their fellow Members of Congress to join in the effort.  

Point of Contact for the Letter 

CUNA appreciates their leadership and will continue to push the DOJ to issue guidance on this important issue.  Below you will find the proposed text of the letter to the Attorney General. 


_____________________________________________________________________


The Honorable Jeff Sessions 
Attorney General 
United States Department of Justice 
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 
Washington, DC 20530-0001 


Dear Attorney General Sessions: 

We are writing to express concerns and seek a remedy regarding the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to inactivate a July 26, 2010 advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“2010 ANPR”) with respect to website access requirements under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The failure to follow through on this notice, entitled “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities and Public Accommodations” (75 Federal Register 43460-43467), has the potential to hamper full participation of the disabled in our modern economy and negatively impact the business community as it tries to fulfill its obligations under the ADA. 

The ADA is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, through which the federal government said that no more would disabled Americans be kept on the outside of society looking in.  Specifically, Title III of the ADA requires equal access for the disabled to public accommodations, and millions of Americans have benefited from it. 

Unfortunately, the ADA was written before the dramatic rise of the Internet and the critical role it plays in society.  As such, it does not speak to the accessibility public accommodations must provide via their presence on the Internet, specifically websites.  Because every day more and more people interact and conduct their business online, it is increasingly important we clarify how the ADA applies to the Internet. 

In fact, as DOJ points out in its 2010 ANPR, “Although [DOJ] has been clear that the ADA applies to websites of private entities that meet the definition of ‘public accommodations,’ inconsistent court decisions, differing standards for determining Web accessibility, and repeated calls for [DOJ] action indicate remaining uncertainty regarding the applicability of the ADA to websites of entities” included in Title III.  For this reason DOJ sought to examine “what regulatory guidance it can propose to make clear to entities covered by the ADA their obligations to make their websites accessible.” 

Without regulation, the disabled community remains at risk of being shut out of certain parts of electronic commerce.  And, members of the business community, including credit unions and community banks, are vulnerable to lawsuits because they are left with no uniform standard by which compliance can be measured.  

All consumers, including those with disabilities, benefit when they can shop online to learn about products and services available on company websites.  Access is best achieved by clear rules stipulating how businesses should serve those protected under the ADA.  

We urge DOJ to restart the process of issuing regulatory guidance regarding the Internet under Title III of the ADA.  To be credible the eventual regulation issued must be the product of serious consideration of the comments offered by all stakeholders and provide a meaningful method to achieve equal access to the web of covered businesses for disabled Americans, with a reasonable implementation period, consistent with the obligations for businesses under the ADA. 

We thank you for your attention to this matter. 

Sincerely,