Over the past five years the financial industry has made great strides in improving accessibility and exceeding their disabled customers’ expectations. However, accessibility is more than a feel good marketing tool, and accessibility standards for banks reaches far beyond parking spots, ramps and braille on ATM machines. Communication is also part of accessibility, and standards are required by federal and state statutes.
This is where banks and financial institutions often find themselves in trouble. The American Disability Act (ADA) requires all organizations to provide equal access to goods, services and communication for all persons. On March 15, 2011, the “effective communication rule” under Title II and Title III of the American Disability Act made it mandatory for public and private businesses to provide equal access to all communication.
Are Banks Responsible for Providing Accessible Documents?
Yes, anytime a financial institution communicates or does business with a person who is blind, has low vision or another visual disability, it must provide accessible documents and other printed materials in an accessible format. The Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights has created a guide to help meet the communication requirements. These materials/service must be provided free of charge, by the organization using the documents, not the consumer.
What are some examples of accessible documents?
Braille, large print, audio, and/or a qualified reader are some examples of appropriate ways of providing equal access. The guide from the DOJ further explains that the person with the disability has the right to a communication method that allows them the ability to understand and meets his/her needs. For instance, you wouldn’t provide braille to a person who cannot read braille, likewise you wouldn’t provide a reader if the consumer is concerned with privacy and/or wants to review the material/documents at a later date; being provided the same rights to independence is the primary intention of these laws.