Your branch locations are outfitted in many ways to accommodate any credit union members that are living with a disability, so that they can perform their banking needs with ease. But with over 50% of Americans using online or mobile banking services, are you doing enough to ensure that these same members can easily and safely complete a simple banking transaction on your website or app?
This is an issue that has recently captured our team’s attention and we’re in the early steps of learning about what can be done to make our website more accessible for members of our community that are living with disability. We’d like to share what we’re learning with other credit unions.
The Problem of Website Accessibility
Currently there are over 57 million Americans living with a disability. That includes:
- 2 million Americans with a visual disability
- 9 Americans with a hearing disability
- 9 million Americans with a cognitive mental disability
- 8 million Americans with a ambulatory disability
Over one million of these Americans report that their disability makes it difficult for them to navigate the Internet. This is where website accessibility comes into play, and this is a phrase that you need to become familiar with. Website accessibility means designing and developing a website that provides every user with the same experience, whether an individual uses a screen reader to understand the content on your website, a user needs to navigate the web without the use of a mouse, or someone relies on closed captioning or transcripts of videos.
Regulations Addressing Accessibility
Section 508 was added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 within the last twenty years to outline how Federal agencies need to make electronic technology accessible to individuals living with disabilities. Sites that are required to meet accessibility standards under Section 508 are websites for any agency of the U.S. government or state government using Assistive Technology funding, websites for any organization receiving Federal financial assistance, or websites used in formal education settings.
Currently, addressing the accessibility of your credit union website would be an exercise in inclusion. It’s anticipated, however, that by 2018, the Department of Justice will expand these accessibility requirements to include all websites for public consumption. That 2018 deadline doesn’t necessarily mean you should delay. Many high profile companies, including Home Depot, J.C. Penney, the NBA, and Sprint have had lawsuits filed against them for violating users’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Guidelines for Accessibility
Undergoing a complete website overhaul to address issues with user accessibility can seem overwhelming at first. If your current website was built by a team of quality web developers, several of the required elements may be present already, as a matter of best practices. But, where can you learn more about the comprehensive list of accessibility requirements?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are a standards guide created by the Website Accessibility Initiative at W3C. A team of experts from disability organizations and government agencies worked with web developers to develop the guidelines that address usability for individuals with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual disabilities.
The Website Accessibility Initiative website is a great resource for understanding the the challenges with website accessibility and process of improving your site to create an equal user experience.
Has your credit union website undergone an accessibility update? Share your experience with us!