2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Banks and other financial institutions have adopted various measures to make their physical premises more accessible.
From installing ramps alongside stairs to adjusting the height of teller windows – banks have strived continuously to make their services more inclusive and accessible. It’s even possible to find ATM machines equipped with auxiliary aids and Braille labels.
However, in today’s day and age, creating a disabled-friendly physical location isn’t enough. You also have to ensure that your website, mobile application, and other digital assets are accessible to users with disabilities.
Why Should Financial Services Websites Be Accessible
The advent of online banking has revolutionized the way consumers interact with financial institutions. Whether you want to pay your credit card bill or transfer funds to another bank account, you can do it from the comfort of your home. A couple of clicks is all you need to check your account balance or renew your insurance policy.
This often creates the illusion that online banking has made financial services more accessible to disabled users. After all, they can complete a transaction and monitor their bank account without having to physically visit a bank branch.
But what happens when a blind user enters a wrong password while logging into their bank account? It’s not like they can read the error message that’s being displayed on the financial services website. Eventually, they might have to seek help from a sighted person to use the website.
Likewise, a motor impaired user may not be able to navigate different sections of the financial services website using a mouse. If your financial services website doesn’t support keyboard-friendly navigation, it might force a user with mobility issues to physically visit the bank branch to complete a transaction.
This defies the entire point of using online banking as a way to make financial services more accessible and inclusive. The problem is further exacerbated by the increasing closure of bank branches in the U.S. due to the rise of internet banking.
The only way to overcome this paradoxical situation is to make financial services websites accessible i.e. ADA compliant. This is particularly crucial considering that nearly 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. suffers from one of the following types of disabilities:
- Sensory impairment (partial or total blindness, deafness, color blindness)
- Cognitive or intellectual impairment
- Mobility-related disorders
Also, contrary to popular belief, most differently-abled people are employed and therefore, possess spending power. This, in turn, means they’re in dire need of accessible banking websites.
ADA: A Closer Look
Simply put, Title III of the ADA prohibits businesses with physical locations, such as banks, hospitals, stores, etc., from discriminating against people with special needs or disabilities. In other words, businesses must implement suitable modifications to ensure that differently-abled consumers can access their products/services.
Since the internet was still in its infancy when the law was passed, Title III of the ADA doesn’t specify any regulations for a business’s digital assets. However, the federal court rulings in recent web accessibility lawsuits emphasize that websites, mobile applications, and other digital assets are an extension of a business’s physical location.
It is, therefore, crucial for financial institutions, such as banks, credit card companies, etc., to ensure that their websites are ADA compliant. Many established financial institutions, including Bank of America, Key Bank, and American Express, have been served with ADA Title III lawsuits in the past.
For instance, in 2016, Bank of America was sued by a visually impaired mortgage holder alleging that the bank’s mortgage-related documents weren’t compliant with the WCAG 2.0 (AA level) guidelines. Likewise, First American Bank was sued by a blind man who alleged that the bank’s website was inaccessible, even with a screen reader.
Needless to say, if you run or manage a financial institution, you wouldn’t want to end up on the receiving end of such lawsuits. Apart from the financial and legal repercussions, web accessibility lawsuits can damage your brand reputation. This, in turn, will make it difficult for you to earn the trust of new customers.
How to Make Financial Websites ADA Compliant
The key to making your banking or financial services website ADA compliant is to ensure that it adheres to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1. Also, your financial services website must achieve AA level of compliance with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
To begin with, this involves implementing keyboard-friendly navigation and modifying various website elements. Also, you must ensure that every visual element has a suitable alternative text. Likewise, you need to adjust the color palette and typography to make your content easier to read.
This, in turn, means you have to hire a developer to modify your website’s source code. Or banking and financial institutions can adopt modern technology for accessibility, just like they have across their other business functions.
You should consider using web accessibility solutions like AccessiBe to make your business website ADA and WCAG compliant. AccessiBe uses AI and machine learning to automatically modify various website elements. From adding alt text for images to implementing keyboard navigation – it automates the entire process to make your website accessible and ADA compliant.
In today’s day and age, accessibility is as integral to website development as security, speed, responsiveness, and user-friendliness. Accessible and inclusive website design doesn’t just make your financial services website ADA compliant. Instead, it helps your financial institution stand out from the crowd.