Why ADA Compliance Is Important to Your CU
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance has been in place since 1990 for physical branches, but what about your website? Increasing accessibility not only helps people who need it but can also increase traffic to your website. It’s a win-win.
To improve website accessibility on a global scale, the U.S. Department of Justice recommends using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and 2.1. Several factors, like choosing the right files so they can be read aloud when clicked or hovered, contrasting colors, and larger fonts can all contribute to an ADA compliant website.
Although the U.S. government has yet set its own clear standards for ADA compliant websites, many companies in a myriad of industries are beginning to take a closer look. The outdated law was created well before we began actively shopping, learning, and banking on the web.
The more society becomes dependent on the Internet for ordering food, traveling, and banking (just to name a few), having a disability that prevents you from using these online services can cause frustration to the point of legal action.
Website Accessibility Lawsuits
Several successful lawsuits against websites, including rulings by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, concluded that commercial websites through which consumers make purchases are subject to ADA regulations.
In 2018 alone, there were over 1,000 website accessibility lawsuits. As online shopping is on the rise, lawsuits are expected to also increase. Large companies like Nike, CVS, and Burger King have been sued for website accessibility complaints. And while corporations may have a larger target on their back, smaller companies should not feel they are exempt.
A case in Jackson, Michigan involved a blind woman who sued multiple credit unions over website accessibility. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case after noting that the woman wasn't eligible to become a member at any of the credit unions. Similar cases have surfaced in Virginia.
It may appear that CUs are in the clear based on recent litigations. However, plaintiffs and their attorneys have recently adjusted their defense by claiming that plaintiffs could technically be tied to the credit union’s services via shared branching. Once a benefit by linking networked credit unions’ ATMs and financial services, shared branching is now an avenue being used to sue CUs with insufficient online ADA compliance.
It appears this angle has also been unsuccessful so far, but it is only a matter of time before another loophole is found and sensationalized.
Are All CUs Affected by WCAG 2.1?
In June 2018, more requirements were added to WCAG 2.0 and are included in the updated WCAG 2.1.
The 2.1 version includes new technologies that did not exist when WCAG 2.0 was created. The main point was to include additional devices beyond computers such as tablets, phones, digital appliances, and wearables. It is important to note that if your website conforms to WCAG 2.1, it is also compliant with WCAG 2.0.
While large financial institutions have already been working to perfect website accessibility, small to medium banks and credit unions may be unaware of its importance. While 2.0 only included a website, 2.1 now includes your mobile app.
Taking ADA compliance into consideration can save your CU from costly litigations and unwanted press. If you are currently experiencing ADA pushback or have specific questions about your extent of compliance, you are not alone. Compliant lending is important to many credit unions nationwide.
The National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU) has made website accessibility issues one of its top priorities. It is helping CUs respond to litigation and working to simplify website accessibility requirements.
Until the law is made clear through the Department of Justice, The NAFCU recommends credit unions make their own "risk-based decisions" regarding website accessibility.
How to Make Your Website ADA Compliant
An accessible website must meet standards in the following four categories:
To satisfy the four categories, the following actions can be taken to improve and maintain website accessibility.
- Include alternative text (alt-text) for each photo or graphic. Popular screen-reading software can audibly cue image descriptions to visually impaired users. (accessible is a popular SaaS platform that offers fully automated 24/7 website accessibility compliance).
- Incorporate readable fonts. Only use fonts that are easy to read in both large and small font sizes. Fonts such as Georgia, Open Sans, and Quicksand are good choices for maximum accessibility.
- Evaluate contrast and color accessibility. (WebAIM) Turn on “high contrast” mode in Windows; this mode is essential for low-vision users.
- Logical navigation. Your website should have a good flow. Put a large "x" in the corner of pop-ups, and a title over each new block of content. ADA compliant content not only includes all website text, images, etc. but third-party vendors and downloadable documents, as well.
- Keyboard friendly. Those with motor and visual impairment can rely solely on a keyboard to get around a website. To test your website, try only using your "tab" key or navigate your website without a mouse for the best results. Also, eliminate auto-play videos and allow users the ability to pause, stop, restart, or slow down videos and slide shows.
- Include audio descriptions. All content should be accessed through sound to aid those with visual impairment.
- Provide concise, clear text for the reader. If you use unique words, provide a definition, and refrain from using phrases that could confuse the average reader. If you have downloads available, provide them in a text-based format such as HTML in addition to PDFs. Keep your membership disclosures and lending forms updated.
- Simplify web forms. If you have online applications or contact forms, make sure they have audible text, with explanations on how the user is to properly navigate. Stick to one-page forms as much as possible for ease of use.
- Write a website accessibility policy. Credit unions like SC Telco provide an accessibility statement through a clear link on their website.
- Consistently check and update your website. ADA compliance regulations can change with the introduction of new technologies. Plus, changes to your website’s design or IT team can affect compatibility.
Make a Personal Commitment to Website Accessibility
Until the federal government provides clear guidelines regarding website accessibility for credit unions, lawsuits will continue to rise in murky waters. While the investment of ADA compliance may be a cost you were not prepared to handle, you must now weigh website accessibility versus possible litigation. However, avoiding a lawsuit isn’t the only reason you should consider the following ADA guidelines.
Credit unions take pride in the experience and personalized relationship with their members. Shouldn’t that same level of care apply to all people? Making a personal commitment to website accessibility provides valuable options for people with disabilities who often get overlooked. ADA compliance is just the right thing to do.
While hiring a web design team or purchasing software to do a complete overhaul overnight is unrealistic, making future online campaigns accessible is a small step in the right direction. To serve your entire community, the time to comply with WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 is now.
Credit union forms and disclosure packages compliant with all state and federal regulations. If you need assistance in creating forms and disclosures in an ADA compliant format, please reach out. Our focus on compliance gives you the freedom to offer members unlimited loan opportunities designed to meet their specific needs. We provide membership disclosures, consumer documents, home equity, or even commercial lending forms in general. We would love to have a conversation with you.