Financial Services WCAG 2.1 AA and ADA Compliance and Certification

Why Web Accessibility Matters for Financial Services Websites

In the financial services industry, ADA compliance is nothing new. For instance, ATMs generally include braille on keypads for the visually impaired and auditory listening jacks for the hearing impaired. But the world continues to change, and as the majority of banking transactions are performed on desktop or mobile devices, approaches to accessibility must be updated to meet the growing trend.

Being ADA and WCAG 2.1 compliant also addresses issues beyond providing the most inclusive online banking experience for your customers—it can also forestall legal action against your company. Over the past several years there has been an influx of lawsuits against financial service institutions at every level, from smaller credit unions to industry staples like TD Ameritrade. Why? Because for most Americans, financial institutions are a necessity of life—and everyone should have the ability to freely access their services.

Gaining compliance is not about placing a certificate or badge on your wall, it is making a commitment to ensuring your website is accessible to everyone. Committing to this standard not only makes good business sense but is the only reliable way to protect yourself against litigation.

What Is Web Accessibility for Financial Services?

Digital accessibility was not specifically written for financial services. Financial institutions fall under the language of “places of public accommodation” as outlined in Title 3 of the ADA. While there is no perfect “checklist” that can be applied to financial services website compliance, the WCAG 2.1 has outlined generally accepted standards for gaining compliance. The WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) revolve around four core accessibility principles—websites should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

The guidelines include:

  • Color contrast
  • Providing descriptive labels
  • Alt text for links and images
  • Making information in tables accessible and easy to read
  • Navigation of your site via keyboard only
  • Indicating the focus for the user on the screen (pointers and lines)
  • Size of fonts
  • Headings and labels
  • Captions for video and audio content

Who Are Financial Services Websites Helping by Becoming Compliant?

There are currently over 60 million Americans living with disabilities—the largest minority group in the United States—and a recent survey found that there are over 5 million working-age adults that are currently “unbanked or underbanked.” This underrepresented group includes (but is not limited to) individuals in the following groups:

  • The visually impaired
  • Persons with physical disabilities
  • Persons with auditory disabilities
  • Persons with cognitive and learning disabilities
  • Persons with epilepsy
  • The elderly

How Does Your Financial Services Website Become Compliant?

When it comes to getting your financial services website ADA compliant, there are a number of factors to consider, from ensuring fluid accessibility across websites and mobile apps, as well as implementing “assistive technologies” for navigation and transactions. Due to the robustness of these types of websites, it’s usually necessary to perform both manual fixes and ongoing remediation, which can take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete.

We understand that, due to the dynamic nature of the financial services industry, waiting a year for these improvements to be completed can seem daunting—and business cannot be put on hold—so a more programmatic approach is necessary. It is exactly for this reason that True Accessibility uses a hybrid approach of leveraging AI (artificial intelligence) to apply automated fixes wherever possible in conjunction with ongoing monitoring and manual remediation for more cumbersome remediation needs. This hybrid approach allows you to achieve ADA compliance quickly and affordably.

Choosing a Manual, Automated, or Hybrid Solution

Financial Sector and ADA Compliance Lawsuits

Financial institutions have found themselves under the microscope when it comes to ADA compliance lawsuits. One example comes from TD Ameritrade, which found itself in the middle of a lawsuit over their site’s incompatibility with a user’s screen-reader technology.

Although the suit was settled out of court, TD Ameritrade agreed to “ensure that all feasible components of its website are rendered accessible by certain deadlines, with key features being prioritized.” This is in addition to paying attorneys fees, court costs, and expert witness fees, as well as issuing a statement that TD Ameritrade would “consider a monetary payment” to the plaintiff.

This combination of payments, fees, and settlements—not to mention the time and effort involved in making their website fully compliant—is likely to bring the total cost for not being ADA compliant into the hundreds of thousands.