At this point in 2023, we all understand every business uses digital communication to reach customers and clients. It’s the norm for businesses and consumers to utilize websites, apps, social media, and emails. With the shift to online banking, apps, and automated customer service systems, the finance industry has become increasingly reliant on digital platforms, especially as consumer trust has made a dramatic shift from in-person to online banking, and trust in online financial services like accounting and tax preperation grows. According to Insider Intelligence, consumers also look for their financial institutions to reflect their core beliefs and values. Particularly for young people, this includes a focus on diversity and inclusion. However, many financial institutions still struggle with inclusive design and ADA compliance on their websites and in their digital communications. Why is it crucial for financial institutions to prioritize inclusive design and ADA compliance? Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about.
What is Inclusive Design?
Inclusive Design is the concept of designing products and services that are accessible to everyone, regardless of those products and services. It’s an integral part of the process of good design to put yourself in the situation of a user, and with financial institutions that user base tends to be very broad and very diverse. Designing with the diversity of users in mind allows all users to have equal access to information and functionality. Inclusive Design also recognizes that impairments can be temporary or situational, and therefore, designs with flexibility and adaptability in mind.
We view Inclusive Design as an integral part of every project. For us, it’s second nature. From the first stages of discovery on a project, we make it a point to be talking about the inclusivity of design. It often follows a mentality of “solve for one, extend to many.” Designing digital products that include a solution for one specific impairment often expands access and improves user experience for many, many more.
What is ADA Compliance?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. While ADA compliance is often thought of in regard to wheelchair ramps, elevators, and parking, it expands far beyond physical limitations and physical needs. In the context of the finance industry, ADA compliance means ensuring that all digital platforms and communication are accessible to everyone, regardless of their disabilities. The ADA offers specific guidelines for website and digital compliance and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide technical guidance and specifications.
What Does Compliance Look Like?
Inclusive Design and ADA compliance don’t need to be incredibly complex. For the financial industry, Inclusive Design can look like increasing the font size and color contrast on website copy, ensuring all videos have captions and all images have alt-text, and increasing the color contrast between the background and buttons. Simple adjustments of these aspects drastically improve accessibility and therefore increase access to important web content and services. As an organization, Mile6 employs multiple techniques and tools throughout the design and development process to ensure we meet ADA compliance. The entire team considers compliance as part of their decision-making.
Avoid An Expensive Lawsuit
Lack of inclusive web design and ADA compliance can result in legal repercussions for financial institutions. In 2017, Wells Fargo was sued for not having an accessible website for the blind. The bank settled for $16 million. According to adatitleiii.com, the number of lawsuits filed in federal court increased from 814 in 2017 to 3,205 in 2022. This includes an increasing number of lawsuits against financial institutions that do not have ADA-compliant services, such as online banking or automated customer service systems, resulting in millions of dollars in settlements.
The Importance of Accessibility
Ensuring accessible websites and communication is not just a legal responsibility, it’s also good practice for businesses. In terms of finance, accessible websites and communication is a necessity. Many individuals, with and without disabilities, rely on online services to manage their finances, invest to grow their wealth, or prepare for retirement. Individuals with visual impairments may use screen readers that narrate the text on a website. Without proper coding and design for these screen readers, the narration can become almost nonsense, causing frustration and limiting access to critical financial information available to sighted users.
Even folks who are generally able-bodied but have temporary disabilities will rely on the accessibility of digital platforms. Someone dealing with an ear infection and struggling to hear everything clearly may rely on subtitles for videos or transcripts for audio content, or a user recovering from ocular surgery might temporarily need a screen reader.
Millions of Customers
Working to make a website accessible is not only the legal thing to do and the nice thing to do; it’s simply bad business not to. About 15% of American adults, 37.5 million people, have reported difficulty hearing. An estimated 12 million Americans aged 40 and over have some form of vision impairment, including 1 million who are blind.
Without even pulling statistics for other disabilities, that’s millions of potential customers who could struggle to access the website content, online financial services, and customer support. And shouldn’t all businesses want their customers to be able to easily access all of their services and content?
How Does Your Site Stack Up?
It’s natural after reading this far to think, “Oh shoot, is there a simple way for me to check my site for ADA compliance?” Well, there’s good and bad news. There are some accessibility checkers that offer free trials online where you can get a general idea, audioeye.com, and accessibe.com come to mind. However, once you know what your situation is, it’s likely that you’ll need a development team with some ADA compliance knowledge to implement any changes you might need.
Inclusive Design and ADA Compliance Have a BIG Impact on User Experience
Prioritizing Inclusive Design and ADA compliance can also greatly improve the user experience (UX). Making websites and communication more accessible for individuals with disabilities creates a better experience for everyone. Captioned videos are necessary for individuals with hearing impairments and audio processing difficulties and are also incredibly useful for anyone watching videos in loud environments or with their phone on silent. Improving color contrast is necessary for individuals with visual impairments and incredibly helpful to anyone dealing with a migraine, or someone who has been staring at a screen all day and their eyes are simply exhausted. By creating more inclusive designs, financial institutions can also improve customer satisfaction and retention. A tweet praising the ease of use of a mobile banking app will have a much more positive impact than an angry tweet about how difficult it is to find information on a website.
Better Money Management For All
Inclusive Design and ADA compliance are becoming increasingly important in today’s digital age, particularly for the finance industry. Ensuring accessibility should be a top priority for financial institutions. It’s not only critical for legal compliance but also good business practice. Inclusive Design expands access to the internet for folks with all types of abilities, and by prioritizing inclusive design and ADA compliance, financial institutions can improve the user experience for all customers. Plus, having proper compliance means avoiding costly legal repercussions.
It’s simple math. No expensive lawsuits and settlements + increased access to millions of customers = better money management.
Senior Product Designer
Jake Trunk is our Senior Product Designer. He brings a passion for creativity, sound design principles, and a desire to provide delightful digital experiences. Jake is always eager to walk our clients through the process of understanding their users, identifying the users’ needs, and creating digital products that help them accomplish their goals. His aim is to always provide innovative and intuitive solutions to digital problems. Jake brings skills in all kinds of creative mediums from digital illustration to website prototyping, and he believes that the muscles of creativity grow stronger not only with repetition but with stretching. Outside of work, Jake can be found in his art studio working on his latest paintings, or spending time with his wife and two small kids.