How Poor Web Accessibility Affects Banking Customers

January 31, 2018

Being able to access banking and other financial services online is almost a necessity for the general U.S. population. The ability to access your account information from anywhere makes it much easier to maintain budgets and to build a more stable financial future. Nearly one in five people in the U.S. have a disability, which means that accessible banking isn’t just a vital service for millions of people — it’s smart business for banks that want to expand their customer base.

Although many banks have launched initiatives like accessible ATMs, web accessibility must also be a crucial part of banks’ accessibility strategies. A majority of U.S. adults, 51%, now use online banking, for Millennials, the adoption rate is much higher, at 67%.

With smartphone usage continuing to spread, these numbers are only poised to increase in the near future. What’s more, people with disabilities are likely more dependent on online banking than the average customer, because visual or motor impairments might prevent them from visiting a branch in person as often as they would like.

In order to open their doors to more customers and avoid expensive legal action under the Americans with Disabilities Act, banks need to make web accessibility one of their foremost priorities.

Which Banks Are Best at Web Accessibility?

Thus far, web accessibility has been a mixed bag for banks. Although many of them have received a failing grade on accessibility, others have made real efforts. A few of the standouts include:

  • Bank of America: Bank of America created a web page dedicated to accessibility. The bank’s website is built in accordance with Levels A and AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
  • JPMorgan Chase: The company’s accessibility statement includes helpful tips for online and mobile banking, as well as recommendations for how to configure screen readers and browsers.
  • USAA: USAA provides an “Accessibility Center” with help and advice on how to use their website with assistive technologies. The company’s mobile app includes accessible features such as allowing visually impaired users to deposit checks.

5 Tips for Banks to Become Web Accessible

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel: Established web accessibility frameworks, such as WCAG 2.0, are extremely popular and have some degree of U.S. government support, which should significantly lower your risk of legal action.
  • Prioritize: You won’t be able to implement all of the WCAG standards overnight, so focus on the areas that can do the most good right away. For banks, this likely involves features such as support for screen readers, improving visual contrast, and adding captionsand transcripts.
  • Get advice: During web accessibility initiatives, it’s important to receive guidance from people with disabilities. By testing and evaluating your website, they can help identify issues and pain points that you would have otherwise overlooked.
  • Work with vendors: The vendors that you partner with should also commit themselves to complying with standards such as WCAG 2.0, using explicitly defined language in your vendor contracts.
  • Audit regularly: When you’ve finished, you should seek advice from expert website accessibility consultants at regular intervals. They can help make sure that you remain in compliance with your choice of web accessibility standards, and keep you updated about any recent developments.

Final Thoughts

The field of web accessibility changes rapidly. It’s important to follow news about the financial industry and ADA conformance, so that you can lower your legal risk and better serve your customers. You can always find the latest news and information about web accessibility on the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s blog.

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