“Complex” is the word that best describes the process financial institutions must go through when preparing to conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the proposed accessibility guidelines for websites and Internet applications set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The ADA currently covers governmental engagements with respect to websites, but the regulations have yet to be formalized for the public sector. Regulators, meanwhile, are still waiting for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue a definitive statement regarding public sector guidelines. Despite the lack of clarity, lawsuits have been filed against company’s over their websites, including many in the financial industry.
This murky environment has left many financial institutions, banking providers and their website developers wondering not only how to provide digital banking access to everyone — regardless of disability — but how to effectively meet the potential ADA and website accessibility guidelines along the way.
Most importantly, you must pay close attention to accessibility-related information as it becomes available and develop an approach to stay on top of accessibility solutions and technologies.
Here are five tips to help your organization better prepare to meet ADA and website accessibility conformity.
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1. Know your WCAG guidelines. Guidance from the industry and recent rulings stress the need for financial institutions to adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA guidance. If your organization hasn’t familiarized yourself with the WCAG guidelines, do so. Make sure everyone tied to your conformance process knows them, and make sure your team discusses them to ensure everyone is on the same page.
2. Pay attention to industry news and legal activity. Because the DOJ has shown a willingness to involve itself in accessibility conformance and may issue a definitive statement at some point, it’s imperative to pay close attention to information releases. Equally important, follow legal activities related to ADA and website/Internet conformance. Changes may be announced or a new round of litigation may be happening and your financial institution may find itself out of the loop, which could be detrimental.
3. Get your plan in place. Meeting the accessibility needs of all your users will not be a short-term, one-time fix but an ongoing process of engaging in review, prioritization, and remediation of issues. Have a conformance plan in place, hold to it, and revisit it, especially if other governmental changes occur. Consider a project manager or managers to help guide the process, as well as ensure there is no lag time in your efforts. Creating a tip sheet or accessibility-specific page on your website documenting your plan also serves as an effective placeholder while you work through the ongoing process. Again, without conformance, your institution may be open to litigation.
4. Control what you can. Ahead of further guidance from the DOJ, it’s imperative that your institution proactively implement a few capabilities to begin the conformance process. Here are some specific areas to focus on: keyboard accessibility, visual focus, and contextual awareness. Consult WCAG guidelines for direction.
5. Don’t forget ecosystem partners. To achieve conformance, other vendors who are part of an online ecosystem may need to be engaged. Make sure your organization works with your partners to help them navigate through the conformance process. Open communications are critical here, as you will be held accountable for your vendor’s changes.
A proactive and informed mindset will help your organization prepare for accessibility conformance, keeping your FI’s website compliant and ensuring usability for all of your account holders.
Anthony Ianniciello is the VP of product design at Q2 Holdings in Austin, Texas, where he is responsible for delivering leading UX designs, providing UX education and driving a seamless experience across all of Q2’s product lines.