Even though the banking industry has changed in many ways over the decades, it will always be a people based business. Banks have a special relationship with their customers, one that is rooted in trust and the ability to provide important financial products and services.
The development of the internet has substantially transformed how people bank, as a great majority of customers now utilize services online or through an app on their smart phone. Website accessibility has become an important initiative in the banking industry not only from a legal compliance standpoint, but just as importantly, because it’s the right thing to do for customers.
The Basics Of Web Accessibility
Web accessibility is based on the principle of inclusiveness, whereby people who have disabilities are able to utilize, understand, navigate and fully benefit from the use of internet just as people without impairments do. Accessibility can encompass many different types of disabilities, including physical, visual, speech, cognitive, auditory and neurological. Giving every internet user a fair chance to fully access all of the products and services on a bank’s website ensures that all customers can benefit from what internet banking has to offer.
The Legal Perspective
Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 508 and the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards have all been utilized to remove website impediments for people with disabilities. During the past decade, the Department of Justice has been engaging in the process of alerting the banking industry about failures to comply with ADA as it relates to web accessibility. In addition, customers bringing lawsuits against their banking institutions for web accessibility issues has happened and any non-compliant bank could be vulnerable to such legal action. Just as any business liability should be assessed by a bank’s executive leadership, web accessibility should be a made a top priority.
Business & Ethical Considerations
Many people today consider internet banking essentially like a virtual branch location and the expectation is that customers will have full access to their bank’s products and services online. Due to the ADA being signed into law 25 years ago, many bank buildings were physically modified with such accommodations as automatic doors, ramps and larger, open spaces to accommodate people in wheel chairs. Financial institutions should make the same concerted effort to help their disabled customers access the web. With two-thirds of Americans now using more than one digital device on a daily basis, web accessibility is not only the law, it is both good business and just as importantly, the right thing to do.
The Road To Compliance
Many banks want to improve their web accessibility, but don’t know where to start. There are many facets to an accessibility strategy, but here is a partial list of some of the major components to consider from the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
- Provide text alternatives for any non-text content.
- Give users enough time to read & use content.
- Make content more distinguishable, both visually and via audio.
- Websites should be easily navigable.
- Helps users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Websites should be compatible with assistive technologies.
Designing and maintaining a website with regards to accessibility laws and guidelines may not be simple, but the benefit to people with disabilities is beyond measure. It’s important that banking institutions give all customers access to the many online products and services that they offer, just as they do at physical branch locations. Banking is a relationship based industry and as more customers use the internet to conduct their financial transactions, web accessibility is a win-win scenario for everyone.
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