It’s like any other day for John. He is sitting in his living room, sipping that morning coffee, when his phone announces a notification “you’ve a new email from Kiti Bank”. Curiously, he asks the voice assistance to read the email for him. It’s his monthly
statement in a pdf format, which is how nearly all the banks share the statements. However, due to the accessibility issue in the account statement pdf, it appeared as jumbled words to the voice assistant owing to which it could read the text out of order
and John could not comprehend which numbers belonged to which columns. Annoyed, he instructed the voice assistance to stop.
Later that day, John wanted to do an online transaction. Sadly, due to difficulty navigating the bank’s website, he resorted to his well-sighted family member for assistance.
That’s unacceptable, you might think, but more worryingly, John is not alone. As per research, three-quarters of visually impaired people who used online banking and other financial services turned to a sighted person for help in carrying out their financial
activities. [source]. In fact, 58% of major banks fail
to meet their customers’ needs because they do not fulfil minimum digital accessibility requirements
Digital accessibility means to ensure barrier-free log-in to your website or using your mobile apps easily by customers with disabilities. It means enabling customers with a disability check their accounts, pay bills, transfer funds and establish cheques
with an ease. Your website should not only be user-friendly for screen readers but should also be accessible on a variety of different assistive technology devices and fall under the robust pillars of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
To ensure a level playing field in digital experience, federal agencies are coming up with stringent Digital Accessibility related regulations. In Europe, where the EU Web Accessibility Directive, Directive (EU) 2016/2102, required all public sector websites
and mobile apps to adhere to accessibility requirements by 2020 and 2021 respectively, the focus is now turning to private sector companies. An upcoming legislation, the
European Accessibility Act (EAA) will be enforced across the 27 member countries from 28th July 2025. The
EAA applies to private companies that provide products or services that are sold or used within the EU regardless of where the companies are based.
Similarly, in US prevalent regulations include Section 508 (which requires all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities) and Americans with Disabilities
Despite the known demand and regulations, banks are struggling with this, and the number of digital accessibility concerns has risen significantly over the past few years. Even industry giants like TD Ameritrade and Morgan Stanley have both faced complaints
regarding the accessibility of their websites and both have agreed to put a remediation plan in place to become accessible.
But what hinders the journey of these financial institutions to make banking inclusive for all? Let’s have a look at a few prominent barriers.
Barriers to Accessibility
Despite all the directives, there is still lack of awareness about accessibility standards and regulations and what’s concerning is the view that digital accessibility is either unnecessary or optional. Digital accessibility is something that’s just plain
right to do and has its foundations in equality, empathy; and, it should be, by default, an integral part of crafting an excellent, equivalent experience. Most organizations recognize the accessibility imperative late in the program or project, and when implemented
in the later stages of the program, the experience suffers as a result.
Other challenges faced by organizations are the shortage of local experts with required technical skills, tools or training in accessibility best practices and the absence of responsibility and accountability inside the organization.
Breaking down barriers with Accessibility-first mindset
Below are some best practices to ensure your organization delivers the best customer experience to every audience -
- Start Early — Integrate accessibility into the design and development of products and services.
- Culture Change — Develop an organizational policy that articulates the commitment to accessibility and builds an “accessibility-first” mindset.
- Training Programs — Provide customized role-based accessibility training to ensure the team is capable of weaving the accessibility into the design fabric of the products/services. If entire organization can’t be trained start with UX Designers,
Content Editors, Quality Assurance, Marketing and Customer Service Departments.
- Effortless UX — Ensure that design of your online services is friendly with assistive technologies. For instance, ensure the navigation and login process is enabled through voice or assistive technologies and not through the mouse. Make
multimedia optional with the possibility to turn off the audio so that users can use assistive technologies without any issues. Use simple language and design to enhance clarity and avoid confusion.
- Make Customer Service Inclusive — Offer real time access to customers in an inclusive way through chats, video conferencing with captions and video relay services that enable real-time sign language interpretation.
Video Relay Service is a form of Telecommunications Relay Service that enables persons with hearing disabilities who use American Sign Language to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment, rather than through typed text.
What Banks should do first?
Your first step is to talk to a digital accessibility expert who can audit your site to tell you where the problems are and help you prioritize the most critical fixes to get your site accessible as quickly as possible — and help keep it
It is also equally important to implement an accessibility policy that covers your websites, apps, and other digital assets. This will ensure that customers have somewhere to turn to when they face difficulty in accessing your site. Having an accessibility
statement, a feedback mechanism for users with disabilities and a resolution policy will help to ensure issues reported by users with disabilities get to the right people and are addressed rather than leading towards litigation.
Start now if you haven’t already!
By proactively addressing accessibility barriers on your website, you position yourself ahead of other financial institutions that fail to consider the needs of nearly 25% of the population who have disabilities. Success of your Digital accessibility initiatives
will require stronger participation of differently abled people in design phase of product development. It is also equally important to have clear and measurable goals defined to measure the success of your initiatives.
A strategic partnership is also a key factor that will determine the success of your accessibility initiatives. Your accessibility partner firm must possess a solid understanding of the BFSI industry along with contextual knowledge of your organizational
culture and business processes to help you navigate this journey.
Irrespective of where you stand on your digital accessibility path, it is important to think of accessibility in the same way as Customer Experience and approach it in a far more holistic manner. Great digital accessibility gives people with disabilities
the ability to experience everything with same depth and completeness as everyone else. Customer experience is the sum of the experiences of all your customers, and hence, to provide an inclusive experience and to deliver a great overall Customer experience,
you must deliver great accessibility.
Mayank is a Digital Marketing Consultant with BFSI Digital Marketing and Customer Experience Practice of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). He is passionate about helping Banking CMOs to elevate their digital experience across the customer journey. With his
rich experience in Digital Marketing, Marketing Strategy and Technology, he has led many transformational initiatives for customers in Digital Experience space. His academic background includes degree in B.Tech and MBA.
A self-proclaimed marketing expert, Shikha has spent the better part of her career crafting marketing strategies and striving to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging marketing technologies and trends. She has a keen understanding of consumer
behaviour and competitive landscape. She holds an MBA from Xavier Institute of Management (XIMB) and is currently working as a Marketing Consultant for Banking and Financial services industry in Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).