From Collector: Accessibility From Every Angle

How to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act when communicating with consumers.

10/25/2019 8:00 AM

NewsCollector Magazine
From Collector: Accessibility From Every Angle

Teresa is legally blind. She has limited sight and requires the assistance of a screen reader that translates online text content to audio when she uses the internet.

James is deaf.

Using a webcam, he often connects online with a sign language interpreter who helps him communicate by telephone.

Congress and President George H.W. Bush enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 to ensure Teresa, James and the millions of other Americans with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as others.

When it comes to debt collection, consumers with disabilities need the opportunity to communicate with collectors and resolve their debts. For collection agencies and collection departments, accommodations may be required to communicate with consumers with disabilities by phone and through their websites, ACA International Communications Consultant Tim Dressen reports in the October issue of Collector magazine.

This issue has been in the news quite a bit recently. On Oct. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from Domino’s Pizza that asked the court to weigh in on whether the ADA applies to the online world. This leaves in place a ruling from a federal appellate court, which decided that a blind customer could sue Domino’s under the ADA after he couldn’t order food through the company’s website using his screen-reading software. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the ADA does apply to retailers’ websites and mobile apps; they should be accessible to consumers with disabilities. The pizza company says it will fight the consumer’s claims in the trial court.

“Incorporate ADA compliance into your compliance management system,” urged John Bedard, managing attorney with Bedard Law Group. “We have the FDCPA, FCRA, TCPA, and all the state laws—these things all need to be part of our compliance management systems. I encourage collection agencies to include ADA compliance in their compliance management system as well, so that the ADA is also on their compliance radar.”

Collection Calls

A 2013 settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and a Maryland debt collection law firm shined a light on the importance of ADA compliance in the accounts receivable management industry.

“The great thing to come out of this case is the exhibit included with the settlement order, which clearly spells out exactly what a collector should do regarding inbound phone calls,” Bedard said. “The work is done for you. It tells collectors what to do and how to be sensitive when communicating with consumers with disabilities by telephone.”

Exhibit A of the settlement order (viewable at www.ada.gov/peroutkasa.htm) is a policy for ensuring effective communication with individuals with disabilities. It addresses “auxiliary aids and services” a collector may need to make available, specifically including accommodations for consumers with hearing or speech impairments, which are the most likely disabilities affecting a collection call.

Some of the steps discussed in the policy include:

  • Define a procedure to accept requests for auxiliary aids and services
  • Determine what accommodations need to be provided
  • Respond to the request for auxiliary aids or services
  • Maintain records

Some collectors have expressed concerns about third-party disclosure when discussing debts with a consumer who uses an interpreter or relay service, Dressen reports.

The Federal Trade Commission has historically interpreted the third-party disclosure prohibition to exclude incidental contact with telephone operators and telegraph clerks.

Interpreters and relay service employees facilitating communication on behalf of a consumer with a disability would generally fall under that exclusion.

Websites

Websites are also a key point of contact between consumers and collectors.

Ensuring your website is accessible by those who are visually impaired is essential for ADA compliance.

“You need to make your primary website goal that someone who is visually impaired can find the information easily and that you’re not hiding it or masking it,” said Susan Hickman, collection and compliance manager for ISPC. “Using white text on a black background or black text on a white background are the best options. Be aware of the readability of your font size, and don’t use anything in the design that is too busy.”

Read more on website accessibility guidelines, online evaluation tools and more compliance tips in Dressen’s article featured the October issue of Collector magazine.

Subscriptions to the Collector magazine digital edition and email notifications for each new issue are available for ACA International members by logging in to ACA International’s website here. Members and nonmembers can also purchase a print subscription. Nonmembers can create a guest profile on ACA’s website to subscribe to available publications.


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

From Collector: Accessibility From Every Angle

Teresa is legally blind. She has limited sight and requires the assistance of a screen reader that translates online text content to audio when she uses the internet.

James is deaf.

Using a webcam, he often connects online with a sign language interpreter who helps him communicate by telephone.

Congress and President George H.W. Bush enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 to ensure Teresa, James and the millions of other Americans with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as others.

When it comes to debt collection, consumers with disabilities need the opportunity to communicate with collectors and resolve their debts. For collection agencies and collection departments, accommodations may be required to communicate with consumers with disabilities by phone and through their websites, ACA International Communications Consultant Tim Dressen reports in the October issue of Collector magazine.

This issue has been in the news quite a bit recently. On Oct. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from Domino’s Pizza that asked the court to weigh in on whether the ADA applies to the online world. This leaves in place a ruling from a federal appellate court, which decided that a blind customer could sue Domino’s under the ADA after he couldn’t order food through the company’s website using his screen-reading software. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the ADA does apply to retailers’ websites and mobile apps; they should be accessible to consumers with disabilities. The pizza company says it will fight the consumer’s claims in the trial court.

“Incorporate ADA compliance into your compliance management system,” urged John Bedard, managing attorney with Bedard Law Group. “We have the FDCPA, FCRA, TCPA, and all the state laws—these things all need to be part of our compliance management systems. I encourage collection agencies to include ADA compliance in their compliance management system as well, so that the ADA is also on their compliance radar.”

Collection Calls

A 2013 settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and a Maryland debt collection law firm shined a light on the importance of ADA compliance in the accounts receivable management industry.

“The great thing to come out of this case is the exhibit included with the settlement order, which clearly spells out exactly what a collector should do regarding inbound phone calls,” Bedard said. “The work is done for you. It tells collectors what to do and how to be sensitive when communicating with consumers with disabilities by telephone.”

Exhibit A of the settlement order (viewable at www.ada.gov/peroutkasa.htm) is a policy for ensuring effective communication with individuals with disabilities. It addresses “auxiliary aids and services” a collector may need to make available, specifically including accommodations for consumers with hearing or speech impairments, which are the most likely disabilities affecting a collection call.

Some of the steps discussed in the policy include:

  • Define a procedure to accept requests for auxiliary aids and services
  • Determine what accommodations need to be provided
  • Respond to the request for auxiliary aids or services
  • Maintain records

Some collectors have expressed concerns about third-party disclosure when discussing debts with a consumer who uses an interpreter or relay service, Dressen reports.

The Federal Trade Commission has historically interpreted the third-party disclosure prohibition to exclude incidental contact with telephone operators and telegraph clerks.

Interpreters and relay service employees facilitating communication on behalf of a consumer with a disability would generally fall under that exclusion.

Websites

Websites are also a key point of contact between consumers and collectors.

Ensuring your website is accessible by those who are visually impaired is essential for ADA compliance.

“You need to make your primary website goal that someone who is visually impaired can find the information easily and that you’re not hiding it or masking it,” said Susan Hickman, collection and compliance manager for ISPC. “Using white text on a black background or black text on a white background are the best options. Be aware of the readability of your font size, and don’t use anything in the design that is too busy.”

Read more on website accessibility guidelines, online evaluation tools and more compliance tips in Dressen’s article featured the October issue of Collector magazine.

Subscriptions to the Collector magazine digital edition and email notifications for each new issue are available for ACA International members by logging in to ACA International’s website here. Members and nonmembers can also purchase a print subscription. Nonmembers can create a guest profile on ACA’s website to subscribe to available publications.


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

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