The first of what is likely to be many ATM accessibility class action lawsuits, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), against Philadelphia-area banks was filed in federal district court in Philadelphia this week. The lawsuit against Beneficial Mutual Savings Bank was filed by the same Pittsburgh-based law firm, Carlson Lynch, responsible for the filing of 20 nearly identical ADA ATM class action lawsuits against banks operating in western Pennsylvania and Ohio.
These earlier lawsuits were all filed in April 2012 and May 2012 in federal district court in Pittsburgh, and all named the same plaintiff, Robert Johada, a blind individual who claims that he was denied services by certain banks as the result of ATMs that are not accessible to the visually impaired. Similarly, the plaintiff in the Philadelphia lawsuit against Beneficial is Darryl Garner, who, like Johada, is blind and who claims to have been denied access to certain ATMs operated by Beneficial. Garner's complaint specifically quotes a March 2012 Wall Street Journal article that maintains that nearly 50 percent of the more than 400,000 ATMs in the United States are inaccessible to the visually impaired, despite the fact that new standards pertaining to accessibility to ATMs for the visually impaired took effect on March 15, 2011, and all ATMs were required to be upgraded to meet these new requirements by March 15, 2012. If the plaintiff and plaintiff's law firm follow the same strategy that was used in Pittsburgh, it is anticipated that a number of virtually identical class action lawsuits will be filed by Garner against Philadelphia-area banks over the course of the next several days and weeks.
We previously provided an update on the specific ADA ATM requirements. However, as a refresher, the more salient requirements are as follows:
Machines shall be speech enabled. Operating instructions and orientation, visible transaction prompts, user input verification, error messages and all displayed information for full use shall be accessible to and independently usable by individuals with vision impairments. Speech shall be delivered through a mechanism that is readily available to all users, including but not limited to, an industry standard connector or a telephone handset. Speech shall be recorded or digitized human, or synthesized. 2010 ADA – 707.5
At least one tactilely discernible input control shall be provided for each function. Where provided, key surfaces not on active areas of display screens shall be raised above surrounding surfaces. Where membrane keys are the only method of input, each shall be tactilely discernable from surrounding surfaces and adjacent keys. 2010 ADA – 707.6.1
Numeric keys shall be arranged in a 12-key ascending or descending telephone keypad layout. The number five key shall be tactilely distinct from the other keys. 2010 ADA – 707.6.2
The display screen shall be visible from a point located 40 inches (1015 mm) above the center of the clear floor space in front of the machine. Characters displayed on the screen shall be in a sans serif font. Characters shall be 3/16 inch (4.8 mm) high minimum, based on the uppercase letter "I." Characters shall contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background. 2010 ADA – 707.7.1, 707.7.2
Braille instructions for initiating the speech mode shall be provided.