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Banking on Website Accessibility Lawsuits

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People with visual, auditory, cognitive recognition, speech or physical special needs have difficulties accessing many popular banking websites due to the startling lack of support for assistive technology.

Recognizing this to be a barrier to consumer banking growth, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility (BoIA) has compiled a list of the banks most vulnerable to litigation risk based on the proposed update to Americans with Disabilities Act Title III. This update defines all consumer commercial websites as being places that must provide for "public accommodation" including those with special needs. Failure to comply can bring significant liability under the law.

Banking, widely considered to be an essential service to the general population, will most likely be put on notice by those who oversee these newly enforceable requirements. The most common areas of failure that prohibit users with disabilities access to banking website information include:

  • Not enabling content to be transformed into large print, sound, symbols, or less-complex language, usable to various handicap requirements
  • Not offering alternatives for media that is in audio or video form thus allowing captions and audio descriptions for the user to select the appropriate format granting them accessibility to all content
  • Background and foreground elements not being separated to allow users to hear and see content
  • Web pages not offering navigational clarity to assist users in finding content and maintaining their orientation on the site
An online presence accessible to everyone makes good business sense and drastically reduces risk profile of a website accessibility lawsuit. Attorneys have seen a recent wave of ADA accessibility lawsuits against banks over the past two years related to both ATMs and general accessibility. That may just be the tip of the iceberg as the recognition of the special needs population continues to be a part of the awareness of the US Congress.

Incorporating the facilities for websites to accommodate for people with special needs is not difficult, but does require a focus. Once correctly implemented, banking websites can easily enable special needs customers to no longer require the assistance of a second person to conduct their online banking business.

Using an automated features-based testing and grading system that measures accessibility features within banks websites, BoIA has released its findings, identifying those banks most likely to be considered candidates for noncompliance website lawsuits under the proposed ADA title III requirements.

The banks and their grades are:

Bank Grade     Click link to view results
Astoria Financial Corp.D+View Grade Summary
Bank of MontrealD+View Grade Summary
BB&T CorporationD+View Grade Summary
Capital One FinancialD+View Grade Summary
Charles Schwab Corp.D+View Grade Summary
CitigroupD+View Grade Summary
City National BankD+View Grade Summary
Deutsche BankD+View Grade Summary
E-Trade FinancialD+View Grade Summary
Huntington BancsharesD+View Grade Summary
KeyCorpD+View Grade Summary
BMO Financial GroupD+View Grade Summary
National Penn Bancshares Inc. D+View Grade Summary
People’s United Financial Inc.D+View Grade Summary
Royal Bank of ScotlandD+View Grade Summary
Susquehanna Bancshares Inc.D+View Grade Summary
Third Federal S&LD+View Grade Summary
Toronto-Dominion BankD+View Grade Summary
United Community Banks, Inc.D+View Grade Summary
Zions BancorpD+View Grade Summary
Arvest Bank GroupDView Grade Summary
Associated Banc-Corp DView Grade Summary
Bank of HawaiiDView Grade Summary
Bank of New York MellonDView Grade Summary
BOK Financial Corp.DView Grade Summary
Citizens BankDView Grade Summary
Commerce BancsharesDView Grade Summary
Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc.DView Grade Summary
First Banks Inc.DView Grade Summary
First Citizens BancsharesDView Grade Summary
New York Community Bancorp Inc.DView Grade Summary
Pacific Capital BancorpDView Grade Summary
PNC Financial Services GroupDView Grade Summary
State Street Corp.DView Grade Summary
Sterling Financial Corp.DView Grade Summary
SunTrust BankDView Grade Summary
Synovus Financial Corp.DView Grade Summary
UMB Financial Corp.DView Grade Summary
Whitney Holding Corp.DView Grade Summary
East West Bancorp Inc.D-View Grade Summary
International Bankshares CorpD-View Grade Summary
Northern TrustD-View Grade Summary
Pentagon Federal Credit UnionD-View Grade Summary
SVB Financial GroupD-View Grade Summary
Wilmington TrustD-View Grade Summary