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CEFCU settles Americans with Disabilities Act complaint

an image of a CEFCU branch.
The CEFCU Branch on East Empire Street in Bloomington.

The U.S. Justice Department and a Central Illinois credit union have settled a complaint over the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Citizens Equity First Credit Union [CEFCU] will create and adopt an ADA policy, train staff, and increase services to those with disabilities.

The U.S. attorney's office said the complaint arose when CEFCU refused multiple times to serve a person with a hearing disability over the phone because the individual was using an interpreter to communicate on the calls. CEFCU refused to speak with the individual through the interpreter and said it could not proceed with a third party present on the call.

“Many people with disabilities communicate through interpreters and the law protects their right to equal access,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua I. Grant.

To protect client confidentiality, many financial institutions have rules limiting third-party presence during discussions with clients, without prior authorization from the client.

“The CEFCU team regrets the service provided to this member. As a general practice, CEFCU regularly communicates with hearing-impaired members to serve their financial needs. To ensure member account safety and security, it had been CEFCU’s prior practice to not allow loan refinancing over the phone through a third-party due to a higher likelihood of fraud and identity theft. CEFCU will continue to protect member accounts and information while seeking to continuously improve the high level of member service that we are dedicated to providing as an organization,” said CEFCU Senior Vice President, Janā Stevens.

The Justice Department said the ADA requires that places of public accommodation like banks or credit unions provide equal access to their services and respond to telephone calls from individuals using sign language interpreters in the same manner they respond to other telephone calls.

“We appreciate CEFCU’s cooperation and commitment to ensuring access to its services for all of its customers. We encourage all business and places of public accommodation in the Central District of Illinois to review their policies and training, so they are prepared to facilitate or provide interpretive services when needed.”

As part of the agreement, CEFCU is not admitting a violation but will make a monetary payment to the complainant.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.