The Growing Wave of ATM Accessibility Lawsuits

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Florida banks and financial institutions should assess the extent to which their ATMs comply with the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act's (ADA). In a spate of lawsuits filed across the Country - and now making their way into Florida – class action Plaintiffs’ law firms allege that most ATMs are not accessible to the visually impaired. These lawsuits are filed without pre-suit demands or notice, and seek class action status, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.

The lawsuits are driven by amendments to the ADA regulations which went into effect in March 2011 and required compliance by March 15, 2012. The new regulations  require that all ATMs be equipped with braille instructions, speech output capability with user controls, braille input controls, numeric keys arranged in a 12-key layout with the number 5 key tacitly distinct from the others, specific font and contract requirements for displays, and a two-way communication system with audible and visual signals. The Wall Street Journal reported in March of 2012 that at least 50% of the nation's ATMs remained inaccessible to the visually impaired.

One law firm has filed hundreds of these ATM ADA lawsuits in Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The same law firm has now filed two such lawsuits in Florida. These lawsuits use “testers” as named Plaintiffs who typically have no banking or other customer relationship with the banks, but who simply travel an area looking for non-compliant ATMs.

Banks, financial institutions, and owners and operators of ATMs should immediately assess whether their ATMs comply with the technical requirements of the ADA's Standards for Accessible Design and, if necessary, implement a written policy to bring non-compliant ATMs into compliance by a date certain.