2008 was the 14th year that the Law Office of Lainey Feingold used Structured Negotiations to resolve class-wide disability access claims without litigation. This year, Lainey and co-counsel Linda Dardarian negotiated five new agreements using the Structured Negotiations process, and Lainey and co-counsel Amy Peterson of Equip for Equality in Illinois negotiated one new agreement. Linda and Lainey continued monitoring agreements signed in previous years, and were also involved in other Structured Negotiations that we hope will result in settlement agreements in 2009.
In this post you can read about the 2008 Claimants, 2008 Claimant and Community Involvement, and the 2008 Structured Negotiations Highlights. If you have an issue that you think is appropriate for Structured Negotiations, please contact us.
Structured Negotiations help parties who might otherwise be adversaries to develop relationships and work on technology, business and customer service solutions to accessibility issues. In Structured Negotiations, the term “Claimant” is used instead of “plaintiff” to describe the people with disabilities and disability organizations that come forward with the issues that are negotiated.
Without Claimants, there would be no Structured Negotiations. In 2008, the following organizations served as Claimants in cases where agreements were signed, were actively involved as Claimants in monitoring agreements signed in previous years, or are serving as claimants in cases where letters were sent to begin the Structured Negotiations process: American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, California Council of the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind, Illinois Council of the Blind, Oregon Council of the Blind, San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind.
Claimants and Community Activities
The leadership, staff, boards and membership of Claimant organizations, and other individual blind and disabled advocates around the country, actively participated in the Structured Negotiations process in 2008. In 2008, these individuals helped the Structured Negotiations process in many ways, including by:
- testing point of sale devices with keypads
- reviewing on-line accessible credit reports
- reviewing Braille, Large Print, and audio credit reports
- testing content and services on web sites
- testing alternatives to visual CAPTCHAs
- testing accessible pedestrian signals (APS)
- meeting with company business and training staff
- meeting with City government representative about APS
- meeting with UCSF Hospital staff about accessibility issues
- providing feedback on Talking ATMs
Structured Negotiations Highlights, 2008
In 2008, six new agreements were signed using the Structured Negotiations process. This brings the total number of agreements signed to 33. (The first settlement agreement using Structured Negotiations was the Citibank agreement signed in 1999 on the issue of Talking ATMs). The new agreements in 2008 are the following:
- Accessible Credit Reports Agreement (2008) Accessible online credit reports and credit reports in Braille, Large Print and audio CD from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The agreement was signed in April of 2008, and all three companies are now providing on line accessible reports and reports in alternative formats. More information is available in the December 2008 Credit Report Update.
- Dollar General POS Settlement Agreement (2008) Tactile Point of Sale Devices at over 8,000 stores in the United States.
- Rite Aid POS Agreement (2008) Tactile Point of Sale Devices at more than 5,000 stores in the United States.
- Rite Aid Web Accessibility Agreement (2008) Website accessibility in accordance with WCAG Priorities 1 and 2. As part of making its site accessible, Rite Aid now has one of the most user-friendly audio CAPTCHAs on the web.
- TCF Bank Settlement Agreement (2008) Talking ATMs and comprehensive alternative format policy. This agreement was negotiated with Amy Peterson of Equip for Equality in Illinois.
- University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center Agreement (2008) Comprehensive program to improve accessibility at University medical Center. This agreement represents the first time that Structured Negotiations has been used to improve hospital access for people with disabilities generally.
In 2008, Linda Dardarian and Lainey Feingold, along with Claimants and individual members of the blind community, worked to enforce the agreements signed in previous years. Some of the issues that were worked on as part of this monitoring effort include:
Accessible Pedestrian Signals
The San Francisco APS Agreement (2007) was signed in 2007. During 2008, the CCB and the LightHouse participated in two meetings with City personnel about implementing the agreement. As of the end of 2008, over 500 Accessible Pedestrian Signals had been installed at 55 crosswalks throughout the City. Further information about San Francisco’s APS policy can be found on the web site of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Tactile Point of Sale Devices
Seven national corporations have now signed agreements to install tactile keypads at point of sale devices so that customers with visual impairments do not have to share their PIN and other confidential information when purchasing goods and services. In addition to the new POS agreements with Dollar General and Rite Aid, in 2008, monitoring work continued with RadioShack, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and 7-Eleven. The agreements reached with these companies in earlier years can be found in the Point of Sale Settlement Category.
Accessible Web sites
In 2008 monitoring work continued on agreements requiring that web sites meet the requirements of Level AA (Priorities 1 and 2) of WCAG. In addition to working on the implementation of accessible credit reports this year, web site implementation work continued with other companies including RadioShack, Citizens Bank, and Bank of America.
Banks continue to install Talking ATMs pursuant to agreements reached as a result of Structured Negotiations. As of December, 2008, tens of thousands of Talking ATMs have been installed as a result of the Structured Negotiations process. Bank of America alone has over 12,000 Talking ATMs. The advocacy efforts of the American Council of the Blind, California Council of the Blind, the Bay State Council of the Blind, and other ACB affiliates in Utah, Iowa, North Carolina, Illinois and Florida and individual blind advocates across the country have made these agreements possible.
Braille and other Alternative Formats
Accessible financial information is a guaranteed right under federal and state law, and we continue to monitor settlement agreements providing for alternative formats. In addition to the credit report agreement signed this year, as a result of Structured Negotiations the following institutions are providing monthly statements in Braille and other formats: Bank of America, American Express, Chase, Wells Fargo, Sovereign Bank, LaSalle Bank, Union Bank of California, Citizens Bank, and Washington Mutual.