Blanks v. San Francisco Federal Credit Union
In September of 2015, San Francisco Federal Credit Union overhauled its website. Suddenly, Credit Union member Marco Salsiccia, who is blind, discovered he was unable to use the Credit Union’s online banking services independently. “I could no longer log in to my account like I had before,” he recalled. “I had to get a sighted friend to enter my confidential login information for me.” Scott Blanks, who is also blind, tried to join the Credit Union but couldn’t access the online application form using his screen reader software.
DRA notified the Credit Union that its website and mobile applications were inaccessible to blind members and prospective members, and the organizations collaborated to craft an extensive remediation plan for the Credit Union’s website, online banking services and mobile applications to make them accessible to individuals with vision disabilities.
On August 2, 2016, Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”) and San Francisco Federal Credit Union (“Credit Union”) announced a precedent-setting agreement which is expected to bring change across the online banking industry. The Credit Union agreed to work together with DRA to ensure its website, online banking services and mobile apps are accessible to people who are blind or low vision. The Credit Union’s website and online banking services are powered principally by a system created by digital banking industry leader, Q2 Software, Inc. (“Q2”). Q2 has agreed to implement accessibility features for the Credit Union that will ultimately be made available to all of Q2’s current and future customers around the nation. When complete, the Q2 Platform and the Credit Union’s website, online banking and mobile apps will meet the international accessibility standard, WCAG 2.0, level AA.
Accessibility standards ensure that blind and low vision people can use websites, online services and mobile apps. Many blind and low vision people use assistive software called screen readers to navigate digital content on computers and mobile phones. The software converts screen text into audible speech or digital braille. When developers plan ahead for online accessibility websites and mobile apps can easily and inexpensively be coded to work with screen readers.
Due to San Francisco Federal Credit Union’s commitment to accessibility for people with vision disabilities, no lawsuit was filed in reaching this agreement. The Credit Union was represented by Jonathan D. Joseph and Jonathan Cohen of banking law boutique, Joseph & Cohen, in San Francisco. Scott Blanks and Marco Salsiccia were represented by Mary-Lee Smith and Meredith Weaver of DRA. Q2 was represented by its General Counsel, Barry G. Benton.