By : Elina Jokisuu
May 17, 2018 12:00 PM
Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which takes place on May 17 this year, is designed to encourage understanding and discussion around the importance of accessibility for all consumers, particularly where digital services are concerned.
Accessibility is a key consideration for the financial services industry; financial institutions (FIs) should strive to make sure core services are available to all, regardless of individual disabilities or impairments.
Achieving high standards in accessibility delivers benefits not only for end users, but for financial institutions (FIs) as well.
Accessibility is about being truly inclusive, and ensuring that all consumers have choice and flexibility in how they use services. In the financial services sector, this principle should apply to everything from self-service devices and in-branch customer support, to software and mobile banking platforms.
Designing products and services for people with disabilities – such as wheelchair users or customers with visual impairments – is a fundamental part of accessibility.
But FIs also need to take a broader view of accessibility.
There are various scenarios in which individuals who would not identify as 'disabled' could encounter the same accessibility challenges as someone with a permanent disability. Someone with a broken arm, for example, might find it difficult to use a self-service machine, while a customer using a touchscreen in bright sunshine could experience the same visibility issues as someone with a visual impairment.
The elderly might also have limited mobility or problems with eyesight, but may not consider themselves disabled.
Approximately one billion people, or 15 percent of the global population, have some form of disability, according to the World Bank. Disabilities are more prevalent in developing countries, posing a clear challenge where financial inclusion and access to vital services are concerned.
Financial inclusion for people with disabilities is a big concern even in the most advanced economies. In the US, 46.5 percent of households headed by working-age adults with disabilities are identified as unbanked or underbanked, research by the National Disability Institute and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has shown.
Furthermore, it's important to remember that improving accessibility in financial services is beneficial for all consumers, not just those with permanent disabilities.
For FIs, aiming for high standards in accessibility can help to lay the groundwork for a strong customer experience across all channels. People who see that their bank is dedicated to maximizing service availability for all will have a more positive perception of the brand, providing a key competitive advantage for the provider.
Accessibility is also becoming more important from a compliance perspective. With more countries introducing legal requirements for fundamental services to be inclusive and available to all consumers, banks can no longer afford to fall short in this area.
NCR has a long-standing awareness of the importance of accessibility in financial services, continuously improving accessibility features for fundamental products and solutions - particularly ATMs.
This has delivered results such as the now-universal tactile features on ATM function keys and touchscreen displays offering maximum visibility for people with visual impairments.
NCR's work was recognized in June 2017, when the Cx110 became the first ATM in the world to receive 'Approved Gold' status from the UK's Royal National Institute of Blind People, and was also recognized by the IDSA who awarded a design excellence award finalist for NCR’s accessibility work in 2017.
Other innovative solutions help FIs to meet legal standards but also enable maximum choice for end users. Interactive Teller, for example, gives customers the option to interact with a remote teller either by speaking through a handset or by using a text input function. As well as supporting people with disabilities, this provides flexibility for users who might not want to talk out loud because they are discussing sensitive information or are in a noisy environment.
By investing in these kinds of solutions and ongoing innovation on the accessibility front, FIs can make their services available to a wide range of end users. This will pave the way for stronger consumer experiences, greater financial inclusion and more rewarding relationships between providers and their customers.