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The State of Accessibility in Banking and Financial Services

By Adrian Redden | Accessibility Test Lead

INSIGHTS // Articles

30 Apr 2018

#Accessibility|#Banking|#Finance

INSIGHTS // Articles

#Accessibility|#Banking|#Finance

By Adrian Redden

30 Apr 2018

With reports of increasing litigation against banking institutions for website inaccessibility, higher customer expectations around inclusive financial services and a significant update to web accessibility guidelines coming later this year, it’s important for product owners, managers and practitioners in the banking and financial sectors to have an established accessibility plan in place.

87% of American use the Internet, 77% of adult Americans have a smartphone, 48% of adult Americans use a mobile to access a bank account, 15% of the world's population experiences a disability

Consumers and businesses who utilise banking and financial services are increasingly gravitating towards web-based and digital platforms to meet their needs.[7] This is compounded through growth of integrated cardless transaction systems, data-rich new payment platforms, increasing variations in smart consumer devices and changing requirements for customers to access services in an efficient and user-friendly manner, adding pressure on financial service providers and banking institutions to keep up with increasing user demands and accessibility compliance requirements.

So how does your accessibility and user experience strategy stack up in the current climate? Here’s our review of accessibility in banking and financial services in 2018, covering new business impacts, changing customer experience requirements, lawsuits and litigation, risk mitigation options and ways to improve your accessibility plan to offer an inclusive experience for everyone who uses your services.

The need for accessibility

Peer-reviewed research on the accessibility of banking and financial systems[1], as well as US internet usage statistics[2] and international disability reports[3], highlights the need for diverse users to utilise internet-enabled banking services to meet their needs:

Global accessibility requirements
  • The World Bank’s World Report on Disability highlights that ‘one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability’.[3]
  • The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that ‘disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programming and the realisation of human rights’.
  • The W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were established to ensure online content is inclusive and accessible for users with disabilities. WCAG 2.0/WCAG 2.1 ensures the guidelines are perceivable, operable, understandable and robust, as well as technology-agnostic and prioritised, to support contextual implementation across any platform.
US statistics

Given the above overview of guidelines, statistics and cases outlining the need for banking accessibility, what are the risks involved in not having an accessibility strategy in place?

The costs of inaccessibility
Legal risks

As users shift towards digital services, lawsuits challenging website accessibility of banking and financial services in the US have been gaining traction well into 2018 [5][10]. With significant financial windfall available for plaintiffs affected by inaccessible banking platforms, financial institutions are often targets of litigation with regards to compliance gaps with the ADA and Section 508 requirements for ICT services.

Costly lawsuits can be avoided with a defined accessibility plan and established risk mitigation strategies in place.

Brand reputation risks

Inaccessible banking platforms can lead to a negative user experience, with potential flow-on to news coverage, social media discussion, and damage to brand reputation. By meeting the needs of diverse users and aiming for accessibility conformance through testing and development with established guidelines (e.g. WCAG 2.0/2.1) you can ensure that the needs of diverse users will be met across all of your digital platforms and services for people to engage without experiencing issues.

International examples of digital banking accessibility cases
United Kingdom
  • Lloyds Bank are the ‘biggest mobile bank’ in the UK with ‘over 12 million active internet banking users and over eight million using mobile banking’. Lloyds Banking Group has embraced a web accessibility strategy which includes innovation through inclusive apps and digital services for users with disabilities. As part of their commitment to increase accessibility for customers, one in four Lloyds Banking Group colleagues are dedicated to helping people and organisations use the internet to improve digital skills and financial capability.
Australia
Changing accessibility requirements

Along with rapid shifts in digital technology and changing consumer expectations around inclusive products, the guidelines and requirements to meet accessibility conformance are evolving as well.

The W3C’s WCAG 2.0 (of which Level AA compliance is a Section 508 requirement) is due to receive a significant update to WCAG 2.1 in June 2018. The upcoming WCAG 2.1 release includes new success criteria for testing accessibility conformance across low vision, cognitive disability and mobile content requirements.

With banking consumers clearly displaying preference towards digital and web-based services, it’s clear that financial service providers need to prepare their online platforms and services for all users with cutting edge accessibility compliance as soon as possible. A great way to do this is by implementing WCAG 2.1 prior to its release in June 2018.

What’s your accessibility strategy?

Given the examples, business cases, insights from experts, industry knowledge and key drivers for making banking services inclusive to all, how does your current accessibility plan meet these requirements? What’s the next step on your accessibility journey?

Check out our Accessibility Testing page to find out how Planit DQA can help you achieve and maintain WCAG 2.0/2.1 compliance for your digital banking products and services through testing, consultancy and support. We can also provide an accessibility statement highlighting your commitment to WCAG conformance and inclusion.

You can view our financial services clients and visit our Digital QA page to learn about our range of testing and consultancy options across functionality, compatibility, usability, performance, security and more.

Related articles:
References:
  1. Exploring the accessibility of banking and financial systems for blind users (Wentz et al., 6 March 2017)
  2. Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet, Who uses the internet (Pew Research Center, 2017)
  3. World Report on Disability (The World Bank, 1 January 2011)
  4. Mobile Banking: A Closer Look at Survey Measures (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 27 March 2018)
  5. Banks Beware: Lawsuits Challenging Website Accessibility are Gaining Steam (Lexology, 3 January 2018)
  6. Benefits and ROI of accessible banking (Media Access Australia, 29 June 2016)
  7. (Don’t) take it to the bank: What customers want in the digital age, 2017 Digital Banking Consumer Survey (PwC, May 2017)
  8. Web Accessibility Laws and Policies, United States (W3C, 16 February 2017)
  9. Lloyds Banking Group – Embracing Web Accessibility (Media Access Australia, 18 March 2015)
  10. Banking: An Easy Website Accessibility Target (AudioEye, 31 August 2016)
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