The first of what is likely to be many Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ATM accessibility class action lawsuits against Atlanta-area banks was filed in federal district court in Atlanta last week. The lawsuit was filed by the same Pittsburgh-based law firm, Carlson Lynch, responsible for the filing of over 100 nearly identical ADA ATM class action lawsuits in federal district courts in Pennsylvania and Texas since March 2012.
Although there are now more than 100 pending lawsuits, the cases involve only a handful of named plaintiffs, all blind individuals who claim that they were denied services by certain banks as the result of ATMs that are not accessible to the visually impaired. One such plaintiff, Robert Jahoda, has now filed 35 ADA ATM lawsuits in federal district court in Pittsburgh. All of the complaints specifically quote 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 Pennsylvania and Texas, it is anticipated that a number of virtually identical class action lawsuits will be filed by against Atlanta-area banks, and banks throughout Georgia, over the course of the next several days and weeks.
The more salient ADA ATM 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.