Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place since the 1990s, it presents opportunities and challenges for credit unions. These challenges include how to comply with the laws while providing an exceptional experience to all members.
According to the act, credit unions must make their physical locations, websites, and documents accessible to everyone. Failure to follow the guidelines could result in fines, penalties, or lawsuits.
Compliance requirements have increased due to the ever-increasing usage of the internet and a wide range of digital channels. Your credit union must stay on top of these top 5 ADA requirements related to all internal and external documents used for recruitment and employee management, loan processes, and member services.
- Retain all internal and external documents related to ADA. ADA compliance for employee records often involves sensitive information and an added layer of required retention, so it’s vital to securely store them online using a HIPAA and FINRA-compliant document storage system (DMS). The same level of record security and retention holds for all other ADA-related documents, making secure document management for these records an essential priority for all credit unions.
- Understand your credit union’s PDF remediation requirements. A key element of ADA guidance (You can read the updated guidelines here) relates to PDF documents available on websites. It is essential to understand that PDFs are not inherently accessible, especially for people with impaired sight who may depend on screen reader technology which enables audio or touch via a computer screen. Such screen readers cannot download PDF files from websites and therefore are not compliant with ADA. As such, there are procedures for translating PDFs into ADA-compliant documents which must be used. Otherwise, the content must be presented in HTML or web-based format, meeting the guidelines.
- Keep PDFs and other documents secure during your remediation process. Most PDFs can be altered into an accessible PDF using specific structures and tags delineated in the ADA standards linked above. Many credit unions need to use a third-party service to accomplish this. Not only must your credit union manage this process, but your team must also provide appropriate access and have controls in place around data sharing. This is another crucial function of a DMS as part of your ADA compliance workflow.
- Conduct an ADA document compliance audit regularly. In addition to the items above, it is critical to ensure that your credit union regularly checks its ADA compliance that covers all levels, from physical branches to document security and accessibility. A team within your credit union dedicated to ADA compliance and keeping up to date on the latest requirements can help organize and facilitate this essential function regularly.
- Create an ADA compliance plan for document management. Documentation of your ADA compliance and your accessibility of internal and external documents are critical. A secure, comprehensive DMS such as SmartVault can help you implement the best practices above. Make ADA compliance a regular part of your operational oversight to avoid any unexpected personnel, service, regulatory, or legal issues.