Nine Credit Unions Hit With ADA Suits Over Websites

At least nine credit unions have been hit with lawsuits in recent weeks over the accessibility of their websites, according to court documents.

The complaints, all of which were filed in District Courts in Virginia by the same two law firms on behalf of the same plaintiff, claimed the credit unions — ABNB Federal Credit Union, Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, Blue Eagle Credit Union, Cadmus Credit Union, Henrico Federal Credit Union, Member One Federal Credit Union, NRL Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union and Virginia Credit Union — operated websites that were inaccessible to visually-impaired users. 

Among other things, the complaints alleged the credit unions failed to embed code that allows screen readers to vocalize descriptions of graphics on their websites. As a result, visually-impaired users could not determine what’s on the sites, browse the sites, look for locations, learn about amenities or determine which branch to visit, they said. The complaints claimed the credit unions’ sites contained links with no readable text, had redundant links that created repetition for screen readers and were missing form labels. 

The complaint against Arlington Community, for example, claimed that the credit union’s website contained access barriers that deterred visits to the credit unions’ physical locations.

“Due to the inaccessibility of arlingtoncu.org, blind and otherwise visually impaired customers who use screen readers cannot effectively browse for ACFCU’s locations, amenities and services online,” it said. “If arlingtoncu.org were accessible, the plaintiff could independently investigate services and amenities, and find the location to visit via ACFCU’s website as sighted individuals can and do.”

The credit unions failed to fix the accessibility barriers after being notified of the alleged discrimination, according to the plaintiff. 

The complaints allege that the credit unions’ websites violated parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability for equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations in places of public accommodation. The Department of Justice’s ADA website states that discrimination includes failing to modify policies, practices or procedures to make things accessible, unless doing so would create an undue burden.

The suits asked for injunctive relief, as well as damages, interest and attorneys’ fees.

Lewis Wood, who is VP of public relations and communication at the Virginia Credit Union League, weighed in on the suits. 

“Unfortunately, unscrupulous law firms are using an uncertain legal landscape to extort money from financial institutions and other businesses. We know the Department of Justice will, at some point, issue accessibility standards for websites. Until that happens, credit unions understand the need to address website and mobile app accessibility for their members with vision or hearing impairments, for example, and are doing so.” 

ABNB, which is headquartered in Chesapeake, Va., has $557 million in assets and about 56,000 members. Falls Church, Va.-based Arlington Community has $273 million in assets and about 21,000 members. Blue Eagle, based in Roanoke, Va., has $149 million in assets and about 15,500 members. Richmond, Va.-based Cadmus Credit Union has $2 million in assets and about 500 members. Henrico, Va.-based Henrico Federal Credit Union has $250 million in assets and about 30,000 members. Member One, based in Roanoke, Va., has $874 million in assets and about 105,000 members. NRL is headquartered in Alexandria, Va.; it has $466 million in assets and about 24,000 members. Pentagon Federal is headquartered in Alexandria, Va.; it has $22.8 billion in assets and about 1.6 million members. Virginia Credit Union, headquartered in North Chesterfield, Va., has $3.4 billion in assets and 262,000 members.

A spokesperson for NRL told CU Times its matter was very recently resolved. Spokespeople for Arlington Community, Cadmus and Pentagon Federal had no comment on the suits. A spokesperson for Virginia Credit Union said it is aware of the complaint, has an attorney and is addressing the concerns. The remaining credit unions did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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