Law Has Implications For ATMs

For millions of people, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) opened new doors of accessibility throughout our country. The act's implications extended to ATMs, but recently, the rules changed significantly. In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice published final regulations that will affect all those who own or operate ATMs, and credit unions should be aware of the implications.

For credit unions, the 2010 standards mean due diligence will have to be performed when affiliating with ATM networks. It may also mean close scrutiny of all ATMs, those either owned/operated by credit unions or those affiliated to credit unions via networks, to assure that they comply with the new standards. Although these standards include a compliance date of March 15, 2011, a safe-harbor clause means that compliance for new construction and alterations is not required until March 15, 2012, if implementation would cause an undue financial burden. However, regardless of the actual compliance date, credit unions need to be aware of the new ADA standards and plan accordingly.

Changes that may need to be made to meet the new standard depend largely on the exact design and characteristics of existing ATMs. In some cases, replacement may be needed; in others, modifications may be adequate. Many in the CU industry, including ATM networks, have expertise in the new standards and can help you prepare for compliance.

The rules are complex, and even manufacturers of ATMs suggest that financial institutions also consult legal counsel to assure that compliance is achieved. ADA compliance rules run into the hundreds of pages, with highly technical language and descriptions. Yet compliance is not just a legal matter. It's simply the right thing to do.

A Handy Summary

It would be impossible to briefly describe all the details of the 2010 standards, but a summary of some of their salient points will give you an idea of the scope of the standards.

• Height and reach: In general, the height and reach of the ATM must be no less than 15 inches from the ground and no higher than 48 inches from the ground.

• Voice guidance: For the visually impaired, ATMs will have to be speech enabled. This includes operating instructions and orientation, verification of user input, error messages and all information that normally appears on the screen of the ATM. This may involve both hardware and software upgrades.

• Braille instructions: Instructions for voice guidance must be provided in Braille.

• Privacy: The same degree of privacy must be extended to all users of the ATM. Users with disabilities must have the opportunity to restrict visibility of the screen and audibility of voice guidance to themselves alone.

• Input devices: Users must be able to use the input devices by touch. This means numeric keypads must be arranged in the same order as a telephone keypad and that the number five must be distinguishable from other keys. In addition, function keys such as "enter," "clear" or "cancel" must be distinguishable both by sight and touch.

• Display screens: Screen characters must contrast with their background, must be clearly visible from a point 40 inches above the ground, and must be in a sans-serif font at least 3/16-inch high.

These capsule descriptions are merely an overview of stipulations that run much deeper; however, they give you an idea of the ways in which the new standard will help make ATMs more accessible to users with disabilities.

The most important thing for credit unions to keep in mind is that it would be a good idea to develop a strategic plan to evaluate your ATMs in terms of their compliance with the Department of Justice's 2010 Standards. Due to the complexity of those standards, it would be wise to consult with industry experts and legal counsel to assure that your evaluation is thorough.

Seek Out Expertise

CUs can also seek out those with established expertise in ATM networks; again, particularly those that are themselves owned by CUs-they are here to serve credit unions. Assistance is available in developing a plan to assure that all ATMs are compliant with the new standards. Many ATM networks are also working with ISOs to assure that their ATMs meet the standards. In addition, make sure any ATM network you affiliate with is aware of-and compliant with-the new guidelines.

While the Department of Justice will not be inspecting ATMs for compliance with the new standard, it will rely on user reports from the field. This means that every person with a disability who uses an ATM is a potential inspector, which is how it should be. Meeting the needs of all those we serve must be the highest priority of every credit union.

Ed Young is VP- Processor Relations and the National Sales Team for Credit Union 24, Tallahassee, Fla. For info: www.cu24.com.e_SIht