With a vote of 225 to 192, H.R.620 - ADA Education and Reform Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 15. The bill sets out a procedure for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility violation claims, giving businesses time to resolve the architectural problem(s) rather than heading straight to litigation. The bill also sets out a reasonable way to see that consumer needs are met while solving real problems.
KOAA News 5 in Colorado covers how so called "disability advocates" are using the ADA to make money off businesses, and how HR 620 aims to stop this practice.
“The vote for this bill garnered some controversy,” shared Evelyn Hawthorne, VP of governmental affairs for the Carolinas Credit Union League. “While advocates for the disabled claim this measure is the first step in dismantling the ADA, the reality is that attorneys distributing these predatory lawsuits have used the lack of clarity related to ADA compliance to file claims that generate fees for themselves rather than address real accessibility issues.”
Credit unions across the country, including those in the Carolinas, have been facing legal threats due to confusion over how the ADA applies to website accessibility, and though the bill does not directly address threats facing credit unions, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the League believe it’s a step toward clarification.
“This bill is an important step forward in addressing other litigation threats," said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. "It will ensure those protected by the ADA will continue to be protected but will take the right steps to curb predatory litigation that harms all consumers. CUNA is increasing our engagement with both legislators and the Department of Justice to see a solution that would protect credit unions and the members they serve from increasing threats of predatory litigation.”
Starting last fall, local credit unions reported receiving demand letters threatening legal action for allegedly failing to provide proper access to “public accommodations” which includes services provided via website according to Title III of the ADA.
“All of these letters originate from a few attorneys on the other side of the country who are clearly "trolling for defendants," adds Hawthorne. “While some resulting lawsuits have been tossed out of court, many credit unions—especially smaller ones—are finding no better choice than to pay costly settlements in order to avoid more expensive litigation.”
While HR 620 does not remedy the situation for credit unions facing demand letters, it could serve to reduce such actions in the future should it become law. The bill now awaits consideration by the U.S. Senate.
The League and the Credit Union National Association continue to advocate for this bill, while providing ADA Website Accessibility Compliance resources for credit unions seeking more information.