Diversity, Inclusion & the Americans with Disabilities Act

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Welcome to my ongoing learning experience in becoming a Certified Receivables Compliance Professional (CRCP)! This week, we’re taking a break from the effects of and changes from COVID-19 on our operations and compliance and focusing on ongoing developments of case law in interpretations surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how this influences compliance and our business operations. First, we’ll start with the legal definition, rules, and mandates surrounding the ADA…

Definition and Enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Legally, this includes the following mandates: 42 U.S.C.S 12101 et seq., EEOC Rule-Making Power – 12 CFR 1630 et seq., Secretary of Transportation – 49 CFR 37.1 et seq., and Attorney General – 28 CFR 35.101, 36.101, 37.1 et seq. While these federal mandates provide the legal framework, the layman’s definition is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, which includes: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, and working. Even operation of bodily functions are included as part of the ADA: the immune system, cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and/or reproductive. Within this framework and definition, the ADA is divided into three titles. Title I is job-related, Title II is public transportation and Title III is the broadest: any private place that serves the public and must thus follow the ADA. This includes stadiums, rental properties, gyms, markets, schools, hotels, restaurants–any physical place that serves the public. Any public place may not deny a person with disabilities full and equal access to the goods and services offered at a place of public accommodation, with the only exceptions being places of worship or religious organizations.

ADA Compliance for Debt Collectors and Buyers

Aside from the Peroutka and Peroutka, P.A. case, there haven’t expressly been any cases on this point affecting debt collectors or buyers and the ADA, although it goes without saying that if a debt collector accepts walk-in payments, they must be able to accommodate persons covered under the ADA to enter and perform any relevant services that the business offers. The Peroutka case centered around two separate complaints of the firm not accepting voice relay calls from hearing impaired debtors. The Federal court ruled that Peroutka was in violation of the ADA. Thus, aside from the various TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) considerations of any debtor contact, there are additional ADA telephonic considerations that businesses must consider in their activities and accommodations. Compliance wizard (aka presenter of this ADA webinar), John H. Bedard, Jr. recommends that all businesses should read the Peroutka and Peroutka case (especially Exhibit A) in order to better understand the changes and policies that the Peroutka et. al. firm had to implement after the case to fully comply with the ADA.

Aside from utilizing this national case law reference, considering that our activities as debt collectors and buyers are often conducted by our websites and remote payments by this method, what US circuit court you operate in depends on how you comply with the ADA and whether you must utilize the physical or purposive interpretation of non-physical spaces (e.g., websites) requiring ADA accommodation and compliance. No matter which states you operate in, allowing ease of access for all your clients and consumers by utilizing web readers, large text options, and other various ADA web-based accommodations can help your bottom line by accepting all payments from anyone. A helpful tool to check your website for ADA compliance is the World Wide Web Consortium’s Website Accessibility Initiative which includes website content accessibility guidelines. Businesses can test their own websites with the tool to ensure ADA compliance. Presenter Bedard, Jr. used this tool to check RMAI’s website as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who is tasked with enforcing the ADA. Ironically, RMAI’s main page of their website returned four errors while the EEOC’s returned 13. 

Summary

I am finding it fascinating to consider topics I may not have thought of affecting business operations and compliance as I expand Tag Process’s operations and management. I appreciate learning about case precedents across the country and their effects on my business decisions and abilities. We all know that compliance is the key to operating consumer-centric client relations and I appreciate the opportunity to get ahead of the curve by learning and sharing national case precedents on relevant topics with others. Contact me today to find out how Tag Process can increase your compliance and consumer relations.  

Disclaimer 

This information is not legal advice and may not be used as legal advice. The information discussed or contained is not an explanation of the law and is presented for educational purposes only.  

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