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Inclusive Digital Banking

Financial services have long understood the need for inclusion. Delivering products and services at a reasonable cost has been a focus in increasing access for more people. In a digital-first economy, the need to widen this focus becomes stronger.

With the digital world comes more barriers to access, particularly for disabled people. Accessible banking services should also focus on removing online barriers to banking for disabled people.

 In the same way physical branches are made accessible, the experience of disabled users must be considered from the start. But since websites are constantly changing, accessible banking services will realize that digital accessibility is a journey. For some, this can mean a cultural shift in the way things are done. We’re here to help.

What is inclusive digital banking?

Inclusive digital banking means making sure everyone can access and use financial service websites, regardless of difference or disability.

“With the banking industry in particular, there’s a moral obligation. If you can’t do your banking, as someone who has a disability, how much of your independence do you have to surrender? If you have to get someone else to do these tasks on your behalf, that is a huge thing.“ - Dominic Maher, J.P. Morgan

Accessible banking services will design their websites and apps following inclusive design principles. That means to design in a way that allows everyone to participate equally, confidently and independently online. For financial services that’s important because everyone deserves the right to financial independence. When it comes to banking for disabled people, the same welcoming experience should exist online as in a physical branch.

Webinar: Driving inclusive digital banking 

Discover more about inclusive design in digital banking. Hear how J.P Morgan and Morgan Stanley improve digital accessibility for their customers. Discover how they’re future proofing accessibility for their organizations.

Who does digital accessibility benefit and why?

Digital accessibility is primarily focused on making digital products accessible to people with disabilities. But it can benefit a much wider audience, including people who lack digital skills. It also brings huge benefits for business.

Online banking for disabled people

In America, 1 in 4 adults have a disability. Many more have a temporary disability. Disabilities can be physical, cognitive, or sensory. An accessibility barrier will exist if the digital design fails to meet the needs of disabled users. For example a person with a mobility disability may have limited movement and use a keyboard to navigate the web. That means websites and apps should be fully functional using a keyboard only. 

When it comes to digital accessibility in banking, research found that the majority of blind users faced accessibility problems.

63.6% of blind users said they were unable to access a bank/finance system because of an accessibility problem. And 54.3% believe that accessibility problems had prevented them from conducting simple bill payments on websites or apps.

Already, that’s a large portion of disabled users being excluded online. If research introduced other groups of disabled users, this number would only grow. Accessible banking services give disabled people the same opportunities as everyone else. And that brings with it benefits for financial organizations.

Benefits of accessible banking services

By being inclusive to the needs of all users, your financial service can increase brand reputation and revenue. Not only by offering an accessible digital banking experience to more people. It also puts your organization in a better place to compete with change-makers in the industry.

“The ability to acquire new customers at ‘digital scale’ will impact market share and challenge existing budgets for branches. The fastest growing financial institutions in the world are all highly specialized in acquiring and onboarding customers digitally – such as Ant, NuBank, Revolut, Chime, etc.” - Brett King

Whitepaper: Accessibility in Financial Services

In this paper discover the importance of digital accessibility for financial services. Hear from authors Martin McKay, CEO & Founder of Texthelp, and Debra Ruh, Global Disability Inclusion Strategist. Gain insights to help you make sure your digital services can be accessed and used by people with disabilities. Receive a 6-step plan to help you take action. You'll also discover results from our research into the accessibility of 30 top National and Community bank websites in America.

The impact of digital inaccessibility

Freedom of choice removed

For disabled users, the impact of digital inaccessibility is huge. It limits their freedom of choice in banking. 

According to the National Disability Institute, households with a disability are less likely to use digital banking than others. Less than half access their accounts online and only 29% use mobile banking. This compares to 73% of those without disabilities accessing accounts online, and 51% via mobile.

Instead disabled households are more likely to use a bank teller (29%) or ATM (28%) as the main way to access their account (versus 16% and 19% retrospectively). This compares to non-disabled households who are more likely to use online banking (42%) or mobile banking (20%) as the main way to access their account (versus 27% and 10% retrospectively).

Financial services that aren’t digitally accessible leave disabled users no choice but to manage their finances in person. Not only can this be inconvenient. By being made to feel different, this can also have an emotional impact too.

“Some banks I don’t go to [anymore]. I’ve had bad experiences because sometimes banks don’t want to deal with people with learning disabilities so they push you aside.” - Disabled respondent, National Disability Institute 2019 report

A lack of trust

Arguably, as a financial service being trustworthy is one of the most important attributes to have. If your audiences don’t have trust, they’ll look elsewhere.

When it comes to managing personal finances, 18% of households with a disability are unbanked. This compares to just 6% of those without a disability. 

Reasons for this include:

  • Not enough money to keep in an account (63%)
  • Don’t trust banks (28%)
  • Avoiding banks provides more privacy (25%)

Amongst underbanked disabled respondents, being made to feel unwelcome was a common theme. Valuing financial independence online is one way of improving. From a business point of view, it makes sense. After all, as some may say “Trust is the currency we trade on in today’s digital world”. 

Legal non-compliance

As well as contributing to a loss in revenue and reputation, digital inaccessibility can have legal implications.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exists to make sure every US citizen has equal opportunities in all areas of public life. Under Title III of ADA, organizations are required to 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.

When it comes to ADA, online banking should be inclusive of everyone. To follow ADA compliance, banking websites and apps must be accessible to people with disabilities. If not, the impact can be costly.

In recent years, the number of ADA-related lawsuits has increased. In 2019 they hit a high with over 11,000. Of these, 2235 were against financial services.

Digital inaccessibility in financial services exists

We reviewed 30 of the top US National and Community banks for accessibility. The purpose was to discover how easy these banking websites were to access and use for people with disabilities. As well as to highlight the biggest barriers to digital banking. The results revealed that there is work to be done:

  • None of the banks fully met Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG Level AA is the international standard for accessibility. 
  • Across all 30 banks, results found that  web content would be considered ‘Fairly difficult to read’. That is according to the Flesch Reading Ease Score.

How to improve accessibility in digital banking

To improve digital accessibility in banking, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a great place to start.

Begin with WCAG

WCAG helps organizations to improve online accessibility by providing a set of guidelines. They’re regarded as the international standard for web accessibility. By following these guidelines, financial services will open up their online services for disabled users. 

“When it comes to accessibility, some people can tend to overthink it. They want to do the right thing. They’re building accessible websites for a community of people with disabilities and others. So they begin to focus on different disability types, and things get overcomplicated. Begin by focusing on what the standards tell you. The standards protect people with disabilities. If we’re all building to these standards, then we can trust we’re going in the right direction.”

Debra Ruh, Global Disability Inclusion Strategist

WCAG helps you to consider the needs of disabled users with varying disabilities. It helps you to make your digital services can be perceived, understood and used by everyone. Its requirements consider many factors that affect accessibility including:

  • Technical elements such as coding that allows screen readers to access content easily, and in a logical order. And allows keyboard only functionality
  • Visual elements such as good color contrast and text size
  • Cognitive elements including the need for forms to include explanatory labels or instructions

Continue with an optimal user experience

As mentioned, WCAG compliance will help you on your way to offering a more accessible banking service online. But as you’re aiming for WCAG compliance, thinking about human experience will help you create the optimal user experience.

Meeting accessibility standards doesn’t necessarily mean you’re giving your users the optimal experience.

For example, you might have added alternative text to your images allowing blind users to ‘see’ your content. But this doesn’t mean they’re providing an accurate description. Or conveying the true meaning of the image. Creating equal experiences for all requires some thought. This translates through to the language used in your content.

It goes without saying that banking and finance information can contain a lot of jargon. Not only that, the language used can often be difficult to understand. In the US, 54% of US adults are reading below 6th grade level. To give every visitor a chance to not only access, but use your digital content, it must be easy to understand. This means keeping information simple and clear. Improving readability can help.

Podcast: How to create accessible & inclusive digital banking experiences for all

In this podcast, we joined experts from Fidelity Investments & Financial Brand to discuss how to create inclusive digital banking experiences for everyone. Discover how technical accessibility and readability each play a part. Uncover our 7 key takeaways from the episode.

Ask us anything

At Texthelp we want to do our part to open up digital banking for everyone. Book in for a free consultation and ask us anything.

  • We'll answer your questions around legal compliance and accessibility best practices
  • We'll discuss the factors that affect digital accessibility and usability - from technical barriers to readability issues
  • We'll show you tools to help you create enjoyable online experiences for all your customers

Inclusive digital banking improves the experience for all

Websites and apps that are designed with disabled users in mind offer a better outcome for everyone. After all, inclusive design is about recognizing diversity in all forms. 

“Building accessible digital experiences is actually good design by default. It gives you a roadmap to create better experiences.” - Morgan Stanley

Online barriers can be situational and temporary too. For example a parent trying to check their bank balance online before making a purchase in a store, may also be holding a baby. Being able to quickly navigate a mobile app benefits them too. Accessible coding, colours and language all play a part in the experience. These elements make financial services easier for everyone to use, in any situation.

Guide: Achieving the POUR principles

For a website to be considered accessible it must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Discover what this means in our free guide. And learn how you can go above and beyond to improve the user experience for everyone.

How is the financial sector doing?

We recently reviewed the websites of 30 of the top National and Community banks in America. We scanned their websites for WCAG compliance and readability, using the ReachDeck Auditor

We found that on average:

  • National banks had 12 WCAG AA errors per page
  • Community banks had 13 WCAG AA errors per page
  • Both had an average reading age of 19 across all website content, and contained over 11 jargon words per page

Arguably, the results show there’s room for improvement. As best practice, organizations should aim to comply with the WCAG Level AA at minimum. Considering that 54% of US adults are reading below 6th grade level, content with a reading age of 19 means excluding a large number of Americans.

 

Check out the report. Discover how both accessibility and readability play a role in inclusive digital banking. Uncover 6 key ways your organization can improve.

Discover how you're doing. Receive a free website review.

We’d love to offer you our support and expertise, to help open up the digital world for all.

Book a free consultation with us and receive a free accessibility and readability review of your website. In the free consultation you'll meet our Business Development Director, James who will:

  • Provide a quick accessibility and readability review of your website
  • Discuss the factors that affect digital accessibility and usability. Including technical barriers, and readability issues
  • Answer your questions around legal compliance and accessibility best practices
  • Identify tools that can help you to create enjoyable online experiences for your customers