January 23, 2013

ATM speech output rule spawns new suits

The automated teller machine speech output requirement implemented last year under the Americans With Disabilities Act is being used in dozens of lawsuits being filed by two individuals against banks and credit unions in several states.

As reported Wednesday by Credit Union Journal, R. Bruce Carlson is the plaintiffs' attorney in these suits. The publication says Carlson most recently filed a suit on behalf of Victoria Gilkerson, described as legally blind, against Houston FCU in Texas. She reportedly has also filed suits in the past two against First Community CU (also Houston) Chasewood Bank and Texas First Bank. In all, it says, she is the plaintiff in 19 ADA suits.

The ADA requirement at issue took effect last March 15. Under a rule change by the Justice Department, all ATMs must provide for speech output through a mechanism that is accessible to all users (for example, a phone handset). Braille instructions for operating the speech output mode must be provided as well.

Wednesday's report notes suitsfiled in Texas and Pennsylvania typically are being settled out of court, with the defendant ATM owners agreeing to bring their ATMs into compliance plus pay attorney fees.

(Other news reports name Carlson as the chief plaintiff's attorney in the proliferation of ATM disclosure suits. Those suits werefiled prior to enactment of legislation, sought by NAFCU, that eliminated the placard rule from the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.)

NAFCU provided members details on this ADA requirement in a 2010 Final Regulation, 10-EF-14. It remains available online (login is required).