CUNA, state leagues weigh in on ADA lawsuit

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The Credit Union National Association has filed a brief in federal court to support an Illinois credit union that is fighting a lawsuit related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The $16.9 million-asset Aurora Policemen Credit Union was sued in December 2017 by Matthew Carello, who is blind. The case alleges that the $16.9 million-asset credit union’s website violates the ADA because it is “not accessible to people who are blind.”

A number of credit unions faced similar lawsuits this year that claimed their websites violated the ADA.

CUNA said on Friday in a press release that it filed the brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit along with the credit union leagues in Illinois and Wisconsin.

“CUNA and the leagues are continuing their aggressive advocacy on behalf of credit unions that are being hit with predatory lawsuits due to uncertainty with how the ADA applies to websites,” CUNA’s president and CEO Jim Nussle said in a statement. “We feel this case could be an important milestone in our push-back against these lawsuits that are exploiting a law designed to protect disabled Americans.”

Carello uses screen reading software to access websites, according to a court document. But unless a website is specifically designed to be read by such software, a blind person cannot fully access the website. Because of that, Carello alleged that Aurora Policeman’s site can’t be accessed by screen reading software. He also claimed the inability to access the website hurt his dignity, according to a court document.

Aurora Policeman claimed that it is “governed by Illinois law requiring that its membership be limited to a specific group of individuals” and that Carello cannot be a member of the credit union anyway, according to the court document. Carello did not dispute the credit union’s assertion that he is ineligible for membership, according to the court document.

In August, Judge Thomas M. Durkin threw out the case for lack of standing but it has seen been appealed.

CUNA argued in the press release that Carello “lacks standing, and had not suffered concrete and particularized harm because he does not meet the eligibility requirements to become a member Aurora Policemen FCU.”

CUNA further claimed in the press release that a website is not “a place of public accommodation, and therefore the ADA does not apply.”

Aurora Policeman is privately insured by American Share Insurance.

The credit union’s website now has the following message on its homepage: “Aurora Policemen Credit Union is committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest possible audience in accordance with ADA standards and guidelines. We are actively working to increase accessibility and usability of our website to everyone. If you are using a screen reader or other auxiliary aid and are having problems using this website, please contact us.”

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