CUs Dealing with ADA Web site Lawsuits and Demand Letters are Looking for Answers
in Blog

On Monday, the New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) hosted an in-person and virtual Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Web site collaboration meeting for credit unions who have been served with lawsuits, received demand letters or who wanted to know more about the issues. The two and a half hour meeting allowed credit union CEOs to collaborate, face-to-face, on the impact of receipt of the legal demands as outlined in the letters, to share next steps, discuss options, and to obtain access to resources. We were joined by representatives of both CUNA and CUNA Mutual Group.

Over the past six weeks, credit unions across the country, including New Jersey, opened their mail and found themselves faced with lawsuits and demand letters regarding ADA compliance issues with their Web site. 

The lack of formal regulation from the Department of Justice has not prevented attorneys from seeking damages on behalf of unnamed clients in their state. Since making a site ADA compliant takes time – and sometimes requires an entirely new site build – you may be wondering what to do next. There was a recent credit union victory against an ADA Web site suit that offered some hope, but there is a long way to go to give credit unions piece of mind on this issue. None of that gives solace to anyone facing a two-week deadline for a response to a demand letter.

If you have not yet received a demand letter or been served with a lawsuit (or evern if you have, you still may receive demand letters from other law firms):

  • Run your Web site through the free web accessibility evaluation (WAVE) tool at http://wave.webaim.org, to see if it identifies any issues. This is not a guaranteed to be 100% accurate, but will give you an indication of potential issues – and we understand it is what the California law firm is using to assess potential targets;
  • This is no guarantee that you won’t receive a demand letter or get served, nor does it have any formal legal stature. But we would suggest you add language to your Web site that directs visually impaired users to call your credit union. This shows you are proactively working to make your site accessible for all. Make sure the text is reviewed by legal counsel, appears on every page and is accessible by text readers; and
  • This mirrors action that Dominos Pizza, LLC took in February 2017. Since then, Dominos Web site and its mobile Web site have included an accessibility banner with the following machine-readable statement: “if you are using a screen reader and are having a problem using this Web site, please call (XXX)-XXX-XXXX for assistance.” That number is reaches  a live representative responsible for providing blind or visually impaired individuals with assistance.

Although there are no guarantees, here are steps you might take if you receive an ADA Web site Demand letter:

  • Contact your bond insurer and consult with your credit union attorney as soon as possible;
  • Talk to your Web site provider or find a new company that can either update your current site to bring it up to compliance standards or can build you a new compliant site. Sometimes it is easier and more cost effective to start over than to try and retroactively update a site; and
  • Reach out to us here at NJCUL and let us know you’ve been affected. We’ll make sure that you are involved in all of our future activities on this topic.

If you are looking for a new, ADA compliant Web site or have questions about updating your existing site, we have two partners with solutions:

If you have questions about this article, contact me at nfoggie@njcul.org. (Note: The advice given here is based on our experience with this issue and should not be considered binding legal advice.)

Here are other resources to check out:

Credit unions should be utilizing the Wave tool to check their Web site’s ADA compatibility as soon as possible.
Click here to access NJCUL’s ADA Web Site Compliance Information and Advocacy page that includes the WAVE tool to check your Web site.
Click here to access CUNA’s ADA Web Site Advocacy page.