Two legally blind women sue area banks over ATM accessibility

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 3:34pm

Two women — both legally blind — filed federal lawsuits against seven banking companies Monday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, alleging that the banks’ inaccessible ATMs violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suits against Capital Bank, First Tennessee Bank, Wilson Bank and Trust, Electric Service Credit Union, Avenue Bank and Midsouth Bank claim the facilities’ ATMs do not have the features mandated by the ADA for visually impaired individuals, such as voice guidance and tactile keyboards.

Susan Welchly of Tennessee and Ashley Summers of Alabama, who filed the suits, are both legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa, which is a damaged retina eye condition.

Welchly also filed two suits against Cadence Bank and First Bank earlier this year on the same grounds.

The ADA requires that banks and financial institutions providing ATMs must ensure the machines are accessible to and independently useable by individuals who are blind or otherwise visually impaired.

The suits cite a 2012 article from The Wall Street Journal that said at least 50 percent of ATMs in the United States remain inaccessible to the blind.

Welchly and Summers request the court to order the banks to comply with the ADA requirement as well as cover court fees.

20 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 8/6/13 at 2:03

Do they ATMs have to have speakers yelling out "Hey! ATM over here" in order to be found by the blind?

By: jthordsen on 8/6/13 at 2:04

Do these people have accounts at these banks and are personally having problems because of the accessibility problems?

It almost seems like they are just looking for banks that don't have this accessibility and suing them.

By: dargent7 on 8/6/13 at 2:46

This is a joke, right? How do two 'legally blind women" know if there's a sign stating, 'The Legally Blind are Welcomed here'?

By: courier37027 on 8/6/13 at 3:43

So, two blind women walk into a bank..and broke their noses.

By: NewYorker1 on 8/6/13 at 3:51

LOL!!! this is fun-ty. Sounds like two blind women running a scam to me.

By: jthordsen on 8/6/13 at 5:10

Do they have to sue? Did they make requests to the banks to update or replace the ATMs or did they just sue them?

By: firstworldproblems on 8/6/13 at 8:29

The banks are required by law to abide by the ADA. Whether or not you think the women are "running a scam," they have a legal right to go to an ATM to withdraw money, just like you or I. If you had read the article, you would see that it states that the women asked that the banks be required to comply with ADA mandates, as well as pay the court costs associated with filing the lawsuit. Nowhere does it mention the women asking for millions of dollars. Of course they had to file a lawsuit. Do you honestly think that if they just walked into a bank and said, "hey, I'm blind. I need you to put in a new ATM with braille," the bank would just say, "oh, okay, no problem"? Right.

None of you is legally blind, nor do you know how much it would suck to have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), or any other of the myriad visual conditions that make life a lot harder. Imagine if you only had one bank in town, and it did not have an accessible ATM. Wouldn't that make life a lot harder? You'd probably do the same thing.

Not that any of you bothered to research, but RP usually causes night blindness; it can also get gradually worse. If these women only had access to banks within immediate walking/reasonable bus distance, it would be more than an inconvenience for none of them to be accessible.

So go ahead and continue to make jokes, but remember that these two women have a right to access all of the things that we do, just like we do, and these banks are not complying with a federal law.

Also, grow up.

By: courier37027 on 8/6/13 at 8:50

firstworld, I would like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on Sunday. Since the liquor stores are closed on Sunday I must plan to purchase liquor and wine any of the other six days. These women can also shop at any of a number of businesses that take ATM/debit/credit card--outside of normal banking hours. Power-of-attorney also helps when designating someone to take care of deposits and bank business. So these women, while handicapped, are not helpless.

True, businesses must comply with ADA. You can thank Bush 41 for passing that law (must really get under your skin to thank GHWB). Until then back of the high horse and fighting for the underdog blather.

By: ancienthighway on 8/6/13 at 10:51

I don't recall a law stating it's illegal to withdraw money on Sunday, there is one about purchasing liquor.

How these women choose to pay for purchases has nothing to do with access to ATM machines. For all you know they may make normal purchase with their debit card, yet still need cash for other things. Then there's that number thing at retailers to type in their PIN. Maybe that's not so easy to see, too, but no legal obligation for those to be accessible.

No courier, they are not handicapped. They are visually impaired. If they were handicapped, if they let their impairment eat at them, then they would stay holed up in their home and beg family and friends to come to them. It sounds to me like they are fully functional adults living their life to the fullest and wanting access to simple things like their money.

By: KD63 on 8/7/13 at 7:56


You're right, thanks to GHWB for signing that law. When was that? Oh 20 years ago and yet these banks still aren't compliant? Like everything else in Tennessee, change comes slowly but I think 20 years is plenty of time to do this. I say go ladies - sue the banks and make them comply.

By: Redbarron06 on 8/7/13 at 8:16

"These women have a legal right to go to an ATM and withdraw money"??

Not sure what nation you live in but here in America, an ATM is private property. The use of that ATM is a convienence not a right. If it was a right, then the owner would not legally be able to charge a few for the use of the ATM now would they? Some banks have the ATM machine inside the branch. The women don't have the right to demand the branch to open the doors and let them in.

While the ADA was good in theory it has cost industry and govt billions of dollars on some really stupid regulations like drive up ATMs having to have brail keypads.

By: jonw on 8/7/13 at 8:21

firstworldproblems, it appears that you are their lawyer. How long did it take you to research all the banks with non-compliant ATM's & then talk them into filing the suit?
The biggest first world problem is too many shyster lawyers.

By: ancienthighway on 8/7/13 at 10:01

@Redbarron06: Blind people do ride in cars, too. But really, why would a company make special keypads and faces for ATMs designated for drive up operations? The would actually cost the manufacturer more.

@jonw: If the lawyer in this case went out and tried to drum up business, he apparently missed the "ambulance chaser" course in school. He forgot to attach a multimillion dollar settlement to the suit. He also spent too much time researching rather than listening to the police scanner and watching hospital doors.

It seems that for those that reply negatively, they support the Corporation doing everything it can to make a profit, to include ignoring regulations designed for everyone to follow.

There's also the impression that some think these women should become shut-ins, stay wrapped up in their blankets in bed all day with their cats, and let others come and care for them, and yet those that give this impression were just screaming about people taking handouts in another post.

By: JeffF on 8/7/13 at 10:06

I think the NCP published an article regarding the cottage industry of public access torts. There are bunches of people who do not work, but just file cases against businesses for the cause of "gettin' paid." Removing the loser pays requirement for legal fees would reduce this abuse of the legal system and social institutions.

Ever notice the braille on the keys at drive-up ATMs at BOA? That is enough evidence right there that this "fight" has gone over the edge of sanity.

By: firstworldproblems on 8/7/13 at 2:25

ADA requires compliance by private companies. End of story. If you don't like it, I don't know what to tell you. You seem to hate the fact that government is meddling, yet this is a way for government to help empower people who would not otherwise be able to live in the world without small accommodations - and let me assure you, they are small accommodations. The alternative is, as ancienthighway stated, taking away ADA and putting yet more people on disability, as a lack of accommodations would [figuratively] paralyze some people with moderate to significant disabilities.

So, to recap, require ADA and let more people be independent, or take away ADA and require more "freeloading," though it is through no fault of their own.

Much of the horrid "freeloading" and "money-grubbing" arguments on here are complete idiocy anyway, since if you knew anything about ADA, you would know that it largely allows only for injunctive relief, meaning that a plaintiff cannot sue for monetary damages. The days of serial suing are gone. The only thing a private citizen can sue for is compliance.

I'm not white-knighting. I happen to work with children who have visual impairments, some of whom have never seen their own face in the mirror, or their own parents' faces, or what a sunny day looks like. And it disgusts me that adults are flippantly suggesting that people who are legally blind, or moreover those who generally have disabilities, should simply get over it. I cannot expect you to understand what life is like for someone with a sensory impairment, but when someone is trying to compare the struggle of being blind with the inconvenience of not being able to buy a beer on a Sunday, you are the one who is blind. And that makes me sad for you.

By: Jazzpa on 8/8/13 at 6:13

All of the ATMs I use are "drive up" ATMs. Having said that, best I recall "legally blind" individuals do not drive. Why do those ATMs have to have features specifically for blind people? All ATMs I have seen that are inside a building (bank or otherwise) have braille keypads. Are those not designed for use by visually impaired individuals?

By: govskeptic on 8/8/13 at 7:54

The length and breath of this disability law has been stretched to limits far
beyond what could ever have been imagined when originally passed. That,
of course, is thanks to a nation that's believes in continuing to pump out
more lawyers and politicians than degrees in engineering, medical science,
competent teachers and professors and others of much greater significance to a nation of this size. It's been an industry for a minority of handicapped and
near handicapped and a large number of lawyers for years since the day it
became law..

By: Rocket99 on 8/8/13 at 12:06

To all the people who say all the ATMs they use are drive up and they see no need for them to be ADA compliant because legally blind people shouldn't be driving, my comment is you are looking at this with blinders on.

Have you ever seen or even know that a back seat passenger in a automobile can access the ATM from within the car?

Have you ever seen or did you even think about people walking up to a drive up ATM?

All of the above is possible and can happen.

To everyone who is making fun of people with disabilities, GROW UP! This is at best kindergarden comments and actions. As grownups, you should know better and be ashamed of your comments.

By: JeffF on 8/8/13 at 3:02

When was the last time you rode in a car with rear windows that rolled down far enough to allow a passenger to use an ATM? Rear windows safety standards have been in place for 25+ years. And how does a blind person find the ATM to walk up to. Are banks going to be sued for not having ATMs announce their presence every 10 seconds? How does a blind person even find the keypads and money slots and deposit slots?

This is another example of a handicap tort grab more about making some bucks then actually benefiting anyone. Just like the lifts for hotel pools have to be permenent and stationary rather than portable.

By: 4gold on 8/9/13 at 8:22

I have disabilities too but I find a way around them. If there is a will there is a way and i dont need to sue anyone. Its not all about me.

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