Making Online Banking Accessible for Everyone

Reported by: |Updated: August 19, 2016

Dinesh Venugopal
Dinesh Venugopal is President – Mphasis Digital and Strategic Customers

Online banking is one of the most popular and one of the easiest ways to bank: individuals can make mobile deposits, pay bills, transfer funds, check balances, etc, all from the convenience of their homes. This means no more long lines and rushing to the bank before 5 pm. Online banking is the modern way to bank. Each transaction can be completed without having to interface with a teller or an agent. Consumer convenience directly results in reduced expenses to the banks. Online banking can be a win for everyone- especially for individuals who are vision impaired, cannot drive, or have a disability.

The 2012 U.S. Census estimates that nearly 1 in 5 individuals has a disability. Disabilities can be situational, such as broken leg, or permanent, such as life-long blindness. And, some disabilities are simply a result of aging, such as decreased vision and cognitive acuity. Individuals with disabilities sometimes use assistive technology as a means to interface with digital content. For example, individuals who are blind cannot use a mouse to point and click. Instead, they use screen-reader programs, programs that read digital content aloud and facilitate navigation around a page, such as Job Access with Speech (JAWS). Individuals who have motor-control issues, such as hand tremors, might use a voice-control system, such as Dragon, to navigate around a page.

If your bank’s mobile and desktop-based web browsing experiences are designed in accordance with WCAG 2.0, you’re helping individuals with disabilities to live more independent lives, you’re helping to sustain and grow your customer base, and you’re helping to ensure proactive compliance with the upcoming legal refreshes.

Accessible bank is a win-win for everyone: for the bank and for the customer.

However, digital content is accessible only when it is programmed with assistive technology.

The criteria that digital content must meet are outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 and 2.0. The latter (2.0) sets the technical standard for ensuring accessibility compliance.

In the last few years, there have been many settlement agreements necessitating the redesign of retail, hospitality, education, state government, and federal government sites in order to comply with WCAG 2.0. And, to cement this need, both Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as well the Americans with Disabilities Act are undergoing refreshes to expressly provide for improved digital accessibility.

A Program-Level Framework for Achieving Accessibility

Like any program, a good accessibility program starts small and gradually scales and matures to include supporting SOPs, governance, and education. Below is a blueprint for initializing and maturing an accessibility program inside the digital banking space.

  • Discovery Phase: Build your list of digital assets (e.g., web sites, applications, software, mobile applications, Word files, PPTs, PDFs, etc.). The outcome is an understanding of the scope of your digital assets.
  • Gap Analysis: Conduct brief, low-effort, and low-resource assessment of a representative sample of your digital assets to determine issue scope, generate a list of appropriate next steps (e.g., prioritizing actions, proposing a thorough analysis methodology, and securing the needed funding/budget to fund the program), and summarize a brief assessment of existing education practices, SOPs, and best internal practices around accessibility. The outcome is tangible evidence of accessibility issues and what needs to implemented to close the gap and mitigate the risk of litigation and customer loss.
  • In-depth Analysis: Use a mixed-methods analysis that leverages tools, manual testing, and assistive technology-based testing on your remaining digital assets and create a library of test results. Because companies tend to have large volume of content, this analysis is typically done in waves against a priority list. The outcome is a detailed list of accessibility issues across all your digital assets that need to be addressed by a remediation plan.
  • Remediation and Validation: Issues need to be logged, tracked, and fixed through coding changes and verified through retesting. Ultimately, this cycle represents a sustainable and iterative process that ensures corrective actions are implemented.
  • Education and Sustainable Implementation: Technical training and process-based training, formal and informal, are essential to ensure the continued success and maturity of an accessibility program within your organization. The outcome is an ability to proactively address accessibility while minimizing the need for post development remediation, saving you both time and money.
  • Governance: To support an accessibility program, including ongoing design, test, and education, there must be documented SOPs, policies, metrics reporting, implementation procedures, and infrastructure monitoring. These documents are necessary to support the ongoing growth of your organization’s accessibility program.