Compliance is baked into all aspects of the banking industry, from transparency to information security. Today’s digital banking platforms are part of this regulation, yet when it comes to customer-facing websites, banks may not be in full compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Despite efforts to make changes, ADA website compliance for banks still remains a challenge.
Wherever your banking institution is on its path toward ADA compliance, this post will outline everything you need to know about the regulations and how to get to–and remain–in compliance.
Why bank ADA compliance is important
The ADA, which became law in 1990, protects the civil rights of people with disabilities by ensuring they have equal access and opportunities to do things like work, visit public spaces and buy goods and services at businesses. This includes websites, applications, and other digital tools banks have created to make banking convenient for customers.
Non-compliance with the ADA puts your bank at risk. A number of large financial institutions have already faced legal action for their failure to provide an ADA compliant bank website.
Whether a disability is life-long, temporary, or onset during old age, the chances are high that everyone will experience some form of disability. This could require assistance in hearing or understanding audio, help reading certain text, or mobility issues that impact using a computer mouse and typing. The prevalence of disabilities also increases the likelihood that your customers will need accessibility assistance at some point when logging into your online banking portal or app.
Making your bank’s website ADA compliant is not just a requirement; it is an opportunity to further create a better user experience for your customers.
What is an ADA compliant website?
Unless your bank’s website was designed to be ADA compliant, it likely does not meet ADA requirements. While the ADA and court decisions related to this law do not specify what makes a website accessible, organizations like the W3C have created guidelines banks and other businesses can use to build a fully accessible website. Its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA are the most often cited technical requirements in settlement agreements and enforcement from the U.S. Department of Justice. Following these guidelines are a safe bet for any business.
- Text alternatives: For any image, illustration or infographic, websites must include text alternatives, known as “alt text,” that translates the non-text into words that can be read by screen readers or other tools.
- Captions: Videos and audio content, like podcasts or webinars, should include text captions.
- Color and shape: Websites cannot use colors or shapes to indicate meaning or directions, such as, “click the red button to read more,” or “follow the arrows to learn more.”
- Contrast: Text and images of text must have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, which limits light colored text on light backgrounds, and dark colored text on dark backgrounds. The Colour Contrast Checker can help you test your site’s contrast ratio.
- Text size: Text should be resized without assistive technology up to 200% without loss of functionality or changing the text’s meaning.
- Keyboard functionality: Users should be able to operate the website and access the content through a keyboard, not just a mouse.
- Time limits: Any clock or timer that limits the time a user has to fill out a form should be extended.
For a full list of guidelines, go to the Website Accessibility Initiative website. You can also determine your website’s accessibility using online tools such as the ADA compliance website checker.
ADA website compliance for banks: what’s different?
Regulations, the federal reserve, and other factors make banking a complex industry. Creating an accessible bank website or app may be complicated by outside vendors or bank protocols. Quick fixes could take weeks, and widespread changes feel overwhelming.
As you review the accessibility of your website and online presence, here are some things specific to banking to consider.
Many banks use online banking portals created and run by third-party vendors. Even though these platforms are not technically owned by the bank, it leaves your institution vulnerable to legal action. Conducting an accessibility review of these third-party platforms and understanding what needs improvement will not only address compliance issues, but also improve your user experience.
Many customers today prefer mobile banking on the go. Checking balances, depositing checks, and paying bills give people more control over their personal banking. It’s essential to make sure these tools are accessible for all. Evaluate these apps in addition to your bank’s main website. The same accessibility requirements apply, from login to bank transfers.
Security is essential to online banking and multi-factor authentication (MFA) helps keep customers safe. Some methods for authentication may pose challenges for people with disabilities, so banks should enable alternatives to their MFA methods to ensure a wide range of people have access. This should include allowing password manager autofill, web authentication apps, and accessible Captchas.
Reducing banking accessibility risk
The first step in making your website more accessible is understanding your audience. Who does your bank serve? Are they primarily veterans, teachers or older people? What are some issues customers have faced trying to access your online portal and website? Considering the challenges customers face will inform decision making and help your marketing team, developers and web designers update your website for accessibility more efficiently.
In addition to technical changes, banks must also make institutional changes to stay ADA compliant. Consider all the different departments and staff members that interact with your website. This typically includes IT and developers, but it could also be marketing and internal communications.
Anyone who enacts changes to the website, either customer-facing or on the back-end, should have ADA compliance training. They should know images require alt text and videos should be captioned. Designers should steer clear of low contrast color palettes, and developers should build more accessible forms for screen reader users. With this training, all bank employees can better serve their customers.
Finally, make sure to set up a system for continually monitoring accessibility. When you add content or capabilities, make sure they meet your accessibility standards.
How TPGi can help
ADA compliance is not a one-time undertaking. Maintaining your website’s accessibility is an iterative process. You must continually test and monitor content and capabilities to ensure a wide range of people can use them with ease.
TPGi helps companies, including banks and financial institutions, determine what changes should be made to become ADA compliant. Once we complete an accessibility audit of your website and mobile applications, we can help create an accessibility strategy for your team and provide accessibility support and user experience services to help your team achieve your digital accessibility goals.
Just like other compliance processes and tasks, maintaining ADA compliance should be a part of your digital strategy. Reduce risk and help your customers get more out of your banking services by speaking with an accessibility expert today!