Accessible Banking Requires Accessible Statements

Computer screen and money indicating accessible banking.

Accessible banking is legally required

Banks and other financial organizations are at risk for ADA accessibility lawsuits. Making all digital resources ADA compliant includes not only web pages but also keeping up with the thousands of PDF statements customers request online daily. Nearly 25% of the population have a disability and digital accessibility can impact a quarter of your target audience. Recent Department of Justice guidance has emphasized that websites are considered places of public accommodation, and must be accessible under Title II of the ADA. 

Inaccessible online banking leads to lawsuits

Customers who can’t access their financial information become frustrated and can file ADA lawsuits when financial institutions fail to meet their needs. Both large and small banking and financial organizations fall short. 

2014 – H&R Block sued for an inaccessible website and apps, and paid $145,000 in settlement

2017 – Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) settled with an advocacy group called AccessNow, encouraging all ICBA members to implement digital accessibility for their websites, apps, and documents. 

2018 – TD Ameritrade sued for an inaccessible website and trading software

2019 – Morgan Stanley sued for an inaccessible website, apps, and PDFs

2020 – Morgan Stanley sued a second time for an inaccessible website

2021- Robinhood Markets, Inc is sued for an inaccessible website under both the ADA and New York State Civil Rights laws.

2022- First-Citizens Bank and Trust Company received a complaint because its division, One West Bank, allegedly has an inaccessible website.

Online Banking Accessibility is worth the investment

Making your website accessible dramatically reduces the risk of ADA lawsuits, potentially saving your company tens of thousands of dollars. It also opens up your services to the disabled population. Americans with disabilities control a combined disposable income of $490 billion in the U.S. alone.

How to start prioritizing online banking accessibility

For years organizations have been requesting clear federal guidelines for digital accessibility. Recently, the Department of Justice has issued guidance that recommends referencing existing standards such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 (which largely references WCAG as well). These standards are categorized into four main pillars of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). All URL elements must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for people with a variety of disabilities: visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive. When web designers and content creators focus on those main pillars during the creation of a website and content, accessibility is included in the foundation of your content and its functionality. Based on a recent study, at least 58% of banks aren’t meeting their customers’ needs for digital accessibility by complying with WCAG.

Accessible Banking includes customer statements and other PDFs

Accessible online banking isn’t limited to web pages. It includes all digital content available on or through your website, including informational PDFs and PDF customer statements.  Each element of the PDF document must have a digital tag that identifies the elements for people using assistive technology like screen readers.  

This includes elements like images, headings, and links, tables, charts, graphs.  Additionally, the reading order of the elements must be correct. Many financial institutions have hundreds of informational PDFs on their website, and thousands of PDF account statements available to their customers at any time. All of these documents need to be accessible to customers with disabilities as quickly and easily as they are to everyone else. 

Making PDFs accessible

Train your content creators to make their content accessible using easy-to-use software so everyone can take responsibility for their work. This way, no single person or team becomes overburdened. Financial entities might publish individual documents such as market trend reports, informational brochures about types of bank accounts, or booklets of stock options, which are quickly and easily remediated in-house with a PDF remediation software such as Equidox. 

On-Demand accessible bank statements

Any monthly statements and other mass-produced documents available to your clients need to be made accessible as well. Equidox high volume solutions make it possible to provide accessible account statements to customers on demand.  Our expert data scientists build a custom template which can be instantly applied to all similar statements to make them accessible.  The template applies tags to each document that are “readable” by assistive technology. Because each high-volume solution is custom built and tested for accuracy, the tagged PDF statements pass accessibility checkers and are usable and functional for the customers using assistive technology.   Equidox software will run within your existing workflow on your server to apply the necessary tags to your PDF statements. When your customer requests their statement, an accessible, ADA-compliant PDF is automatically generated and provided to the customer, on-demand.

Compliance is easy with the right tools

As places of public accommodation, banks and other financial institutions are required to make all services and products, including those offered digitally, accessible to everyone. Know your legal requirements and what tools you need to meet the requirements as recommended by the DoJ.

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Tammy Albee

Tammy Albee | Content Marketer | Onix Tammy joined Onix after four years experience working at the National Federation of the Blind. She firmly maintains that accessibility is about reaching everyone, regardless of ability, and boosting your market share in the process. "Nobody should be barred from accessing information. It's what drives our modern society."