February 15, 2018

ADA bill passes House, offers NAFCU-sought website relief

After months of NAFCU engagement on Capitol Hill, the House yesterday passed NAFCU-supported legislation to address public accessibility concerns under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Ahead of passage, lawmakers on the House floor clarified their intentions to address websites in the bill following NAFCU-led efforts.

The bill passed on a 225-192 vote; it now heads to the Senate for consideration.

NAFCU has worked closely with the bill's sponsor Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to get relief on website accessibility demand letters.

"NAFCU would like to thank Reps. Poe and [Rob] Woodall and Chairman Goodlatte for listening to credit unions' concerns about unclear guidance under the ADA as it relates to website accessibility," said NAFCU President and CEO Dan Berger. "This confusion has led to plaintiffs' attorneys targeting credit unions with meritless lawsuits, hindering the ability of credit unions to meet their members' needs.

"NAFCU and our members strongly support the protections of the ADA and efforts to ensure individuals with disabilities are not discriminated against and have equal access to financial services. We have maintained that this is best achieved through clear guidance and standards for website compliance, not through meritless and costly lawsuits. We appreciate the representatives who realized this challenge and sought to clarify it by supporting this bill."

The ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620) would set conditions for filing civil actions over the failure to remove an architectural barrier to an existing public place by giving businesses time to come into compliance before a lawsuit can proceed, among other things.

During discussion on the bill, Poe and Woodall, R-Ga., had a colloquy on the House floor to discuss website accessibility and asserted that in districts where the courts have determined that ADA applies to websites, H.R. 620 would also apply. This conversation clarified the congressional intent of the legislation and would allow those receiving demand letters related to website accessibility to have time to come into compliance. Poe and Woodall also indicated they would work with the Department of Justice to further clarify the issue.

NAFCU has engaged with lawmakers for months to try to expand some of the bill's protections to help curb the meritless lawsuits filed against credit unions for website accessibility under the ADA. Just last week, Berger met with Goodlatte to discuss the issue and how Congress can get involved to help credit unions.

Resources for dealing with the ADA issue, including an updated FAQ document, can be found here.