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Banking on Website Accessibility Lawsuits

Apr 10, 2014

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
Astoria Financial Corp. D+
Bank of Montreal D+
BB&T Corporation D+
Capital One Financial D+
Charles Schwab Corp. D+
Citigroup D+
City National Bank D+
Deutsche Bank D+
E-Trade Financial D+
Huntington Bancshares D+
KeyCorp D+
BMO Financial Group D+
National Penn Bancshares Inc. D+
People’s United Financial Inc. D+
Royal Bank of Scotland D+
Susquehanna Bancshares Inc. D+
Third Federal S&L D+
Toronto-Dominion Bank D+
United Community Banks, Inc. D+
Zions Bancorp D+
Arvest Bank Group D
Associated Banc-Corp D
Bank of Hawaii D
Bank of New York Mellon D
BOK Financial Corp. D
Citizens Bank D
Commerce Bancshares D
Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc. D
First Banks Inc. D
First Citizens Bancshares D
New York Community Bancorp Inc. D
Pacific Capital Bancorp D
PNC Financial Services Group D
State Street Corp. D
Sterling Financial Corp. D
SunTrust Bank D
Synovus Financial Corp. D
UMB Financial Corp. D
Whitney Holding Corp. D
East West Bancorp Inc. D-
International Bankshares Corp D-
Northern Trust D-
Pentagon Federal Credit Union D-
SVB Financial Group D-
Wilmington Trust D-

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