ADA at the ATM

Ambiguity mars 2012 compliance guidelines

The following is an excerpt from chapter 1 of the ATM Compliance Handbook 2012, published by

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- By March 15, 2012, ATMs in the United States must be in compliance with the latest rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The rules are intended to ensure equal access for the disabled to public accommodations and technology.

Although the eventual cost to the industry is unknown, ADA compliance may represent a significant investment for ATM owners and operators. Experts say the effort and cost are worthwhile.

"This is actually a really good law, and it helps a lot of people who would have a much harder time in life without it," said Sam M. Ditzion, CEO of Boston-based ATM advisory firm Tremont Capital Group, a recognized expert in ADA regulations for the industry. "I think a lot of people don't put that in perspective and complain about government regulation, but the law has made millions of people's lives a lot better."


The good news is, there are no ADA police. The bad news is, there are no ADA police.

When it comes to regulating ATMs in most areas, businesses are accustomed to certification processes or audits by third parties. Those enforcement tools do not apply for ADA. Instead, manufacturers and deployers will first need to interpret the ADA regulations and then make good-faith efforts to implement them. Violations will not be monitored by the Department of Justice, but alleged by consumers who perceive a machine is not in accordance with the strictures of the law and file a complaint.

Making matters worse, ADA standards may not always be crystal clear to the casual reader. While the Department of Justice provides advisory commentary, some questions may not be addressed until the implementation deadline has passed, leaving ATM operators feeling vulnerable in the meantime.

Lloyd R. Chatham, vice president and general counsel for Payment Alliance International Inc., a Louisville, Ky.-based independent ATM deployer, said the company is working with its customers to manage compliance, but it doesn't have all the answers right now.

"There are some components of the ADA that are subject to interpretation, and we are hoping the industry is unified and addressing these revised standards the same way, but there are some issues that aren't perfectly clear," Chatham said.

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