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legal status iconLast month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted rule 30e-3, which will allow registered management companies and unit investment trusts to provide shareholder reports online. Financial firms now have approximately 30 months to prepare to make their reports online—and to make sure they are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

While this 30-month lead-up to full implementation of the rule may seem a long wait for many management companies anxious to decrease their printing and postage costs, it also offers an opportunity: Funds have 30 months to audit their websites and apps to ensure they are accessible to investors with disabilities.

Lawsuits against banks and financial services companies under the Americans with Disabilities Act are on the rise, with eight new cases in June 2018 alone. It’s more important than ever for firms to make sure investors and clients with disabilities are not left behind, as two recent cases filed by long-standing customers against financial services firms make clear.

Currently, SEC rules require that physical copies of reports be mailed to shareholders. Under rule 30e-3, however, management companies and other covered organizations will instead be able to mail a letter informing shareholders that the reports may be downloaded at a specified website. These notices must be sent to investors each time a current shareholder report is made available online; they must also include instructions for how investors may request paper copies.

“The new rule significantly modernizes delivery options for fund information while preserving the right of fund investors to receive information in paper form as they do today,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton in a prepared statement.

Management companies may not take advantage of the rule change quite yet, though. The rule includes a two-year phase-in period beginning January 1, 2019, in which funds must provide notice of their intent to take advantage of the new rule. Only after at least two years of providing notice on the front page of their prospectuses and shareholder reports may management companies may finally provide reports electronically rather than on paper.

If you want to make sure your website (and your reports) are accessible to investors with disabilities in time for rule 30e-3, there’s no better time to start than now. A digital accessibility expert like Level Access can audit your website to tell you what needs to be done to make it accessible and can help you get there in time for January 2021.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.