How to create accessible & inclusive digital banking experiences for all

A podcast with Texthelp, Fidelity Investments & Financial Brand.

About the episode

61 million adults in the US live with a disability and the average American reads to a 7th/8th grade level.

In this podcast, we join experts from Fidelity Investments & Financial Brand to discuss how to create inclusive digital banking experiences for everyone.

Listen and gain insight into:

  • ADA and the legal requirements around web accessibility
  • The benefits of digital accessibility for financial organizations and service users
  • How to improve the online experience for disabled users and those with low literacy. From your website, to your social media content & beyond
  • The results of Texthelp’s recent research into the accessibility and readability of top national banks, community banks and credit unions
  • 7 key takeaways
  • Transcript
  1. Technical accessibility is a good place to start…
    Standards exist to help organizations make sure their websites can be accessed by everyone, including people with disabilities.

    The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, are used by organizations worldwide. The goal of WCAG is to create a standard structure for web accessibility. As such, they’ve become the international standards for web accessibility. 

    Legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, require organizations make their “place of public accommodation” accessible to people with disabilities. Since a website is a place of public accommodation, to meet ADA compliance your website must be accessible too.

    WCAG is a great place to start. It addresses problems that may make it hard for customers who use assistive technology, such as a screen reader, to access web content.

    James Deignan from Texthelp summarizes;
    “Technical accessibility is a great starting point because it's clear cut. It either meets WCAG or it doesn't, right?”

  2. But it’s important not to stop there
    WCAG largely addresses technical accessibility, but there are other factors that affect the accessibility and usability of digital content. That is content creation and readability.

    Readability is all about how easy or difficult it is to read something. Readability depends on a text’s presentation (font choice, spacing, colors etc.) and context (the actual words written). Sentence length, sentence structure, and the average syllables per word are all factors that affect readability.

    Speaking on the importance to web accessibility, James explains;

    “Readability is often one of the most overlooked pieces when looking at web accessibility. The analogy I think of for the two parts of web accessibility is the building of a house.

    You can create a sturdy frame and an external set of walls that really holds up your structure. But if you don't fill in the walls and the weathering and if they're not done correctly, you're going to have a sturdy house full of holes. Readability in a web accessibility standpoint are currently the walls and the weathering. It's unknown to many businesses that they already have large gaps in what they see as a whole and complete structure.

    By filling in those gaps, you'll be able to have your customers not only understand your content better, but they'll have a better user experience that they'll pass onto other users or return for future business.”

  3. User feedback is key
    At the heart of digital accessibility, is remembering that you’re working to improve the online experiences of real people. To ensure that all of your visitors and customers can fully participate, it’s important to understand their needs.

    Jeff from Fidelity Investments explains;
    “Online inclusion is really ensuring that we're meeting our customers where they are, and that our content is more of a kaleidoscope view as opposed to a single lens that everybody must fit within. We feel that everyone counts, everyone matters, and everyone needs to be able to be involved, especially with finances, which is very personal.“

    At Fidelity Investment, they have an employee resource group called Fidelity Enable, for associates with disabilities. With over 5000 active members, they’re able to gather insights and adapt their services based on real and personal experiences.

    Jeff explains;
    “Going above, as James mentioned, if a door has a five pound per square inch push/pull ratio, technically "it's accessible." But for an individual who uses a manual wheelchair for mobility and upper body weakness, trying to back up and pull that door open, instead of a five pound per square inch push/pull ration, that easily could be a thousand pounds to that individual. Technically it's accessible, but it's not "usable."

    When it comes to their website, Fidelity Investment has an accessibility help desk where customers can share any accessibility barriers they’re experiencing. 

    What makes this a success is that their teams are empowered to take action…

  4. Empathy and staff training is vital
    Within the business, Fidelity Investment have learning and development teams, with an accessibility champion on each. Together, they’ve put together training programs on accessibility best practice for staff. 

    Explaining the importance of this, Jeff says;
    “We want our customers to feel like they found their people. A big part of that is just providing the training and the awareness and creating every experience with empathy as a beginning point. I think one of the last examples, we thrive on customer feedback as it pertains to accessibility. If there are any pain points or accessibility barriers that our customers encounter, we have the ability to get that feedback directly to the developers and designers of that product or service to really help prioritize the remediation efforts.”

  5. Digital accessibility is a work in progress
    As you’re working hard to improve digital accessibility, it’s important to remember that’s in an ongoing journey. Maintaining the accessibility of your website is part of the journey too. Not only that, the willingness to critically review what you could do to improve further matters as well.

    At Texthelp, we recently scanned the websites of 30 top national and community banks in the US. We scanned for technical accessibility issues, as well as readability problems. Results found the need for improvement.

    James explains;
    “We found close to 150,000 WCAG A and AA errors across the 30 sites. Now, that breaks down to about 4,900 errors per domain, which is quite a lot when you think about it. In terms of readability, the average reading age across all of the sites is 19 years old. In the United States and Canada, the reading age of a typical adult is between the ages of 12 to 14...That means they’re providing content and services that are described and written at a grade level that is five grade levels higher than what the average American can understand. 

    My question to a lot of these retail banks is, how are you really communicating what you're going to provide in terms of a benefit if your end users can't understand what you're saying?” 

  6. The inclusion challenge: Readability
    When it comes to the finance industry, the readability of content matters. But, financial organizations have challenges to overcome. 

    Jeff explains;
    "What complicates things, being a highly regulated industry, there's a lot of regulatory jargon that we're subject to, a lot of disclaimers, legalese, and so forth, which makes the content harder to describe.”

    At Fidelity Investment, they are working to overcome these challenges. Jeff says;
    “Our corporate communications group and government relations has been working with our regulatory organizations to try to find ways to simplify some of the terminology. Our corporate communications team and our learning and development teams have been working on creating language that's clearer, more concise, definitely more inclusive in everything that we do, whether it be a newsletter, or website content.”

    Explaining why doing so is so important, Jeff explains;
    “Finances are one of the most personal things that we all have to deal with in our lives. We need to make sure that all of our customers can fully understand, comprehend, participate, know what decisions they're making and how that decision is going to impact their livelihood and so forth. Lots of focus on the content and also working with regulators and regulatory industries on this to see how we can make this different.”

  7. Collaboration equals success
    From Jeff’s insights above, it’s clear that partnering with other organizations can be beneficial. 

    On this, Jeff highlights;
    “Partnering with other companies, other organizations, the disabilities communities, listening to podcasts, presenting on podcasts, finding information and building that network [is beneficial]. No one has this figured out 100%, but all of us have pieces of the answer. And when we share best practices with each other, and I quote Microsoft Jenny Lay-Flurrie and Megan Lawrence all the time, they say, “When one of us wins in this space, we all win”. It is so true. We're better together.

    Whatever the case is, starting today and looking for those resources, there's many organizations out there that help with this…At Fidelity, it really started organically, first through our employee resource group, and then we launched this Office of Customer Accessibility and a procurement accessibility program. It wasn't something from senior leadership on down. Every individual has the ability to impact change, and we have that ability to impact change today. Like running a marathon, it starts with that first step, but there's organizations and there's information out there to help get started.”

About the speakers

James Deignan

Accessibility & Inclusion Specialist, Texthelp

As an Accessibility & Inclusion Specialist at Texthelp, James supports financial, government and health organizations on their diversity, inclusion and accessibility journey.

James is passionate about promoting equality and creating opportunity for all. He believes in a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers. With over a decade of experience in the tech space, James advises companies on tools and strategies to improve digital inclusion and online accessibility. 

Jeff Wissel

At the time of recording, Jeff was the Director of the Office of Customer Accessibility at Fidelity Investments. Today, Jeff is Chief Accessibility Officer at Disability:IN.

Fidelity is a leading provider of investment management, retirement planning, portfolio guidance, brokerage, benefits outsourcing and other financial products and services to more than 20 million individuals, institutions and financial intermediaries.

In his role at Fidelity, Jeff optimized interactions with customers with disabilities by ensuring that accessibility was a design principal in everything they did at Fidelity. In addition, Jeff is the founder of the Fidelity Enable Employee Resource Group for associates affected by disabilities.

Jeff is a Certified Financial Planner and holds the ADA Title II Coordinator certification.

Hosted by Jim Marous

Host of Banking Transformed podcast, Co-publisher of The Financial Brand

Named as one of the most influential people in banking, Jim Marous is an internationally recognized financial industry strategist, co-publisher of The Financial Brand and the owner and CEO of the Digital Banking Report. The Digital Banking Report is a subscription-based publication that provides deep insights into the digitization of banking, with over 150 reports in the digital archive available to subscribers.

As a sought after keynote speaker, author and recognized authority on disruption in the financial services industry, Marous has been featured by CNBC and CNN, Cheddar, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, The American Banker and has spoken to audiences worldwide. Jim has also advised the White House on banking policy.

Take the next step!

We've got of resources to help you improve digital accessibility and readability for all. Visit our 'Inclusive Digital Banking' resource area and discover webinars, guides, whitepapers & more. Or, book in with James Deignan for a free web accessibility review and the chance to ask him anything!