Wells Fargo and Department of Justice: Claims Filing Information for the Blind Community
The United States Department of Justice is now taking claims from individuals with disabilities who believe that they have been discriminated against by Wells Fargo or Wachovia because of their disability. Claims must be filed by January 29, 2012.
In this post you can find resources regarding the claims filing process, and learn more about the issues affecting people with visual impairments that may give rise to a claim. Under the settlement, individuals with disabilities may file claims for monetary payment based on Americans with Disabilities Act violations by Wells Fargo and Wachovia. The amount of payment each person can receive is not specified, but there is a total pot of up to 16 million dollars.
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How to File a Claim
The Department of Justice has posted a page on its website entitled “How to File a Claim for Compensation (Payment) from Wells Fargo (including Wachovia).” According to the Department of Justice
You can begin the process of filing a claim by sending your name, address, email address, and day and evening telephone numbers by email to WFclaims@usdoj.gov or by leaving a message at 1-866-708-1273 (voice mail) or 1-866-544-5309 (TTY) — U.S. Department of Justice
Claims may be filed in connection with Wells Fargo banking branches, the Wells Fargo website and the bank’s phone services, Wells Fargo Advisors (brokerage services), Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and Wells Fargo’s credit card services. It also includes Wachovia and/or its employees and contractors.
What kinds of Issues May Result in Payment for Persons with Visual Impairments
According to the Department of Justice “any person who experienced disability-based discrimination in violation of Title III of the ADA based on something Wells Fargo did or didn’t do that happened on or before May 31, 2011 and who contacts the Department on or before January 29, 2012.” The following types of issues may give rise to a claim for compensation under the settlement. Except for a few examples, the Department has not specifically said what will and will not be compensated.
- Talking ATM problems
- The DOJ agreement with Wells Fargo includes a statement that Wells Fargo “represents to the United States that its approximately 12,100 ATMs allow for equal access for individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are blind or have low vision and require speech output to use ATMs. By March 15, 2012, all of WFC’s ATMs will comply with all applicable regulations, including those for ATMs published in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010.”
Wells Fargo has had a long and positive history with Talking ATMs, beginning three months before the first Talking ATM was installed in the United States when the bank and the California Council of the Blind (CCB) announced an historic plan to install Talking ATMs throughout California. Read the June, 1999 Wells Fargo / CCB press release. More information about Wells Fargo’s Talking ATM history can be found in the Talking ATM History Category on this website.
Despite Wells Fargo’s long-standing commitment to Talking ATMs, people with visual impairments who have experienced malfunctioning Talking ATMs may have a claim that will be recognized by the Department of Justice. People who could not access Wachovia ATMs that now are owned by Wells Fargo since the banks merged may also have claims.
- Website accessibility barriers
- Although Wells Fargo has had a commitment to web accessibility for many years, access barriers on its website that may still exist may give rise to claims accepted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Claims for access barriers on the former Wachovia web site may also give rise to claims.
- Alternative Formats for Print Information
- The DOJ settlement recognizes that financial information typically distributed in print format must be effectively communicated to individuals who cannot read standard print. Individuals with a visual impairment who have requested but not received financial information from Wells Fargo in a format that is effective may have a claim recognized by the Department of Justice. Alternative Formats specifically mentioned in the Wells Fargo settlement agreement include Braille, large print, audio format, and accessible electronic format. The Settlement also mentions the requirement that Wells Fargo provide raised line checks for individuals with visual impairments who request them.
- Refusal to Allow Service Animals on Wells Fargo Property
- In the Department of Justice Claims Information Page, the Department includes the following example of someone who can file a claim: “You are blind or have low vision and were denied services because of your service animal.”
- Other Inaccessible Technology
- Individuals who believe they have been denied services as a result of any inaccessible technology in a Wells Fargo branch may have a valid claim. One example of such technology are payment devices at teller windows that do not contain tactile keypads. This device is not specifically mentioned in the Department of Justice settlement, but may give rise to a claim recognized by the Department of Justice.
- Architectural Barriers
- Some architectural barriers that particularly affect persons who are blind or visually impaired include protruding objects, absence of required tactile markings in driveways, lack of accessible signage, or the failure to maintain accessible pathways.
- Service Denial
- The Settlement Agreement recognizes generally that anyone with a disability that has been “excluded from accessing Wells Fargo’s services because of that disability” is entitled to file a claim.
- Wells Fargo Settlement Information Page on the Department of Justice Web site
- Department of Justice Fact Sheet about the Settlement.
- Claims Filing Information Page from the Department of Justice
- Complete Settlement Agreement between Wells Fargo and the United States Department of Justice.