Accessibility in banking: how finance actually fares when it comes to catering to customers with disabilities
- Financial institutions are legally required to be ADA compliant but many are not.
- Accessibility consultants say institutions need to do a better job of listening and responding to customers with disabilities.
Svetlana Kouznetsova, an accessibility consultant, always gets nervous when she has to travel. Her bank has blocked her card on valid transactions on a few occasions. Most often, the only way to resolve the issue is to talk to someone over the phone — but that solution doesn’t take into consideration that Kouznetsova is deaf.
“It’s a very frustrating experience,” says Kouznetsova. “It’s 2021! Everyone texts now. More businesses are offering other options to communicate than just via voice calls. But many still expect everyone to use the phone only.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires financial institutions to provide accessible services to their customers in person and online. Today, U.S. courts apply ADA and its accessibility requirements to the websites and apps of financial institutions, too. Banks can be accessible with screen readers, online chats, and talking ATMs or ATMs with braille. However, many institutions have been running for decades, and for a lot of them, website accessibility compliance would require them to overhaul their application, product, or website code. This can be time-consuming and costly.
Some institutions have the juice to remediate accessibility issues and move forward with accessibility as an integral component of their products and features. For example, Bank of America says it offers ADA-compliant banking services through its mobile banking app and online banking chat. BofA’s AI-driven virtual assistant, Erica, provides clients personalized, proactive financial guidance through voice, text, or on-screen gestures. BofA also introduced new ADA Specialty Centers staffed by trained employees, with tailored features like braille Better Money Habits, hearing induction loops, and American Sign Language–trained employees.
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