Everyone wants equal access to their money. Gone are the days of stashing cash under your mattress or deciphering your handwriting in a checkbook register. Everything can be done online: opening new accounts, depositing a check, monitoring your savings, applying for a personal loan or credit card, and much more.

In the days before the internet, people only had one avenue to pursue these activities: putting on pants and going to the bank. For a person with a disability, this is still the case when financial websites and mobile apps are not accessible. But while this may be a simple errand for most people, for someone with a disability it can involve any number of inconveniences including finding a ride, bringing an assistant, or scheduling an interpreter.

Online banking accessibility is crucial because more than 1 in 5 Americans have a disability, and that number grows every day.

The baby boomer generation is transitioning into retirement and beginning to experience age-related disabilities—like decreased hearing or arthritis—that can make using technology challenging or next to impossible.

Another important thing to remember is that technology that is accessible is also easier to use for everyone, not just people with disabilities. Accessible technology is friendlier for less tech-savvy users, people who speak English as their second (or third) language, and even that guy you know who has no patience.

Accessible Online Banking Portals

Where should online banking accessibility be prioritized? Here are some examples of online banking activities your customers with disabilities may need to access:

  • Checking account balances and recent transactions
  • Transferring funds to another location
  • Paying and managing bills
  • Checking credit card fees, rates, and rewards
  • Creating, editing, and choosing options for account status alerts
  • Accessing customer service, bank documents, or the message center

By implication, online banking accessibility should also be prioritized for the general portions of the site users need to navigate through to access these services.

Sam has limited mobility and uses switch control to navigate online. He wants to try his bank’s online bill pay feature, but switch control is slow (remember texting back when it was 9-key?) and the session will often time out when he’s in the middle of setting up a bill for payment.

Lina has a traumatic brain injury. She is a decorated lieutenant, but now she struggles with short-term memory and moving some of the muscles in her arms. She can no longer drive a car or use the mouse on her laptop. She thought when she created an online banking account she’d have easier access to her money, but it was not the case. The website does not work well using only the keyboard and Lina often can’t tell which field has focus when she hits Tab to navigate.

Accessibility for ATMs

ATMs have been a valuable addition to the banking experience for decades, but only in the last 10 years have they been accessible to customers with disabilities. Before then, those customers encountered varying barriers to access depending on the machine.

ATM accessibility features include, but are not limited to:

  • Large-print, high-contrast keypad and screen text
  • Braille-numbered keypad
  • Headphone port for private audio and volume control
  • Ability to have the machine repeat audio instructions or messages
  • Proper height for wheelchair users to reach the buttons

Tom is legally blind. He prides himself on his independence, and detests revealing things that are meant to remain private. He needs to withdraw cash but the screen text contrast and resolution prevent him from using the ATM independently as he wishes, forcing him to ask a friend for assistance.

As a side effect of having to redesign ATMs for accessibility, features were added that have been great for everyone. Now a customer can deposit checks without an envelope, too!

This article is part of a series about accessible technology for the financial industry which also includes Making Investing and Wealth Management Accessible to People with Disabilities and Making Financial Apps Accessible to People with Disabilities.