Community Banking Advisor: Is Your Website Accessible to the Disabled?

Recently, there’s been an increase in litigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These lawsuits allege that companies’ websites (including some banks’ websites) are inaccessible to people with visual and hearing impairments. The ADA applies to “public accommodations,” including banks and other financial institutions. Unfortunately, there’s some uncertainty about the features a website must offer to avoid violating the ADA. And the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) doesn’t expect to publish regulations on the subject until next year.

In the meantime, to avoid ADA claims, banks should evaluate the accessibility of their websites to the visually and hearing impaired. DOJ officials have suggested that a commercial website would likely comply with the ADA if it satisfies “Level AA” of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

Get Ready for New Mortgage Servicing Rules

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in August 2016 issued its final Mortgage Servicing Rule, which amends the mortgage servicing provisions of Regulation X, under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, and Regulation Z, under the Truth in Lending Act. Most of the amended provisions take effect October 19, 2017, but provisions related to successors in interest and periodic statements for borrowers in bankruptcy take effect April 19, 2018.

The CFPB also has published an updated version of its Mortgage Servicing Small Entity Compliance Guide, which incorporates the final Mortgage Servicing Rule.

Keep an Eye on Blockchain

In the world of financial services technology, few terms have received more hype than “blockchain.” And though widespread implementation of blockchain is several years away, community banks should become familiar with the technology and keep an eye on future developments. (A good resource for blockchain information is the Community Bank Blockchain Alliance ).

Best known as the technology that makes Bitcoin possible, blockchain’s potential uses extend far beyond digital currencies. Simply put, a blockchain is a distributed database, or ledger, which is shared among thousands, or even millions, of computers (called “nodes”) rather than being housed on one central server. Because the ledger isn’t under the control of any single party — transactions aren’t added until verified by a process of consensus — it’s highly resistant to errors, fraud or tampering. And the technology uses encryption and digital signatures to protect participants’ identities.

Given these features, blockchain establishes trust without the need for intermediaries to settle or authenticate transactions. This has the potential to make a variety of banking transactions dramatically more efficient, saving banks, and their customers, billions of dollars.