Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act considerations by credit unions typically revolve around accessibility of their branch network. However, websites and mobile applications may present obstacles to people with physical and visual impairments as well.
Updating online channels to ensure that they are fully accessible to all membert can help ward off legal challenges. A recent Los Angeles Times article reports that nearly 5,000 ADA lawsuits were filed against businesses in federal court in the first six months of 2018 alone, alleging that people with disabilities could not access their websites. “With online sales, reservations and job postings now a huge part of modern commerce, advocates for the disabled say websites need to be as accessible to everyone, just as brick-and-mortar stores, restaurants and schools are,” the article notes.
An equally important consideration for banks and credit unions is that websites and mobile apps are essential components of omni-channel service delivery that offers convenient access and ease of navigation to all members, including the 63 million people with disabilities living in North America.
New federal standards
Several sets of regulations address accessibility rights and requirements at the federal level. The ADA prohibits discrimination and “guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life—to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in state and local government programs and services,” according to the ADA.gov website.
Other laws address electronic accessibility, or information and communication technology (ICT), more specifically. Most recently, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was updated to provide current standards for ICT accessibility, effective January 2018. Though Section 508 applies to federal agencies and businesses with federal contracts, these new regulations provide a model for financial institutions in ensuring that their remote channels are accessible.
For example, Section 508 requires that all Internet content should be accessible to people with disabilities, including those with blindness or other visual impairments. Accountholders with visual disabilities visiting a financial services website or using a mobile app should be able to use screen readers that translate written content into audio transmissions and direct users how to interact with the content.
Websites also need to support navigation that is compatible with a keyboard. If people with physical disabilities can’t use a touchpad, touchscreen, or mouse to get around a webpage, they should be able to use their keyboard or adaptive device to do so.
Section 508 is just one source that financial institutions can consult in working to ensure that their online channels are fully accessible. These new regulations are designed to align with industry guidelines set out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.
Accessible appointment app
Kronos recently completed a redesign process for its branch appointment app with an aim to make this member service interface fully compliant with current accessibility standards. The new features of the Kronos FMSI Appointment Concierge include screen reader compatibility that “speaks out” options for services requested and appointment times, dates, and branch locations and then prompts users to select their choices.
Banks and credit unions offering the app to accountholders can also select the fonts, colors, and color contrast on content to support optimal readability for people with visual impairments, including color blindness. And the new version of the app is also navigable by keyboard.
Another useful feature for people with disabilities is a comments field that allows them to specify if they will need special accommodations during their appointment.
Kronos partnered with the company Accessible 360 to test the functionality of the new app.
Accessible 360 is owned and staffed by people with disabilities, so they can provide training and guidance through the redesign process and test the finished product with a first-hand perspective on functionality and accessibility.
The new regulations include standards for a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), a document that specifies how information and communication technology complies with Section 508. Under those guidelines, the Kronos FMSI Appointment Concierge will be 99 percent compliant; only the Google map that displays branch locations through the app is not fully accessible.
The new version of the appointment app is also more responsive, with a cleaner and simpler design. With options for multilingual translation, this website and mobile application is positioned to provide a convenient and fully accessible means for account holders to connect with financial professionals to provide assistance with their personal money management needs.
Like many other aspects of regulatory compliance, staying current with accessibility standards across delivery channels is an ongoing responsibility for financial institutions. In the case of making online banking and mobile applications convenient for all consumers, it’s also just good business.