It's official: Level Access and eSSENTIAL Accessibility are becoming one! Read the Press Release.

What is Digital Accessibility?

Digital accessibility refers to the ability of users with disabilities to effectively access and use information and communications technology. Anything that provides useful information or services needs to be accessible to users with disabilities, including:

  • Websites, web applications, and electronic documents
  • Mobile apps and mobile web content
  • Self-service systems (e.g., kiosks)
  • Software applications

Digital accessibility is generally concerned with ensuring that these systems are designed in such a way that they interact appropriately with use of the keyboard only, and assistive technology like screen reader, screen magnification, and voice recognition software.

Check out the Understanding Assistive Technology Series to learn more about how your customers with disabilities access your digital content.

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Industry Report

2021 State of Digital Accessibility
for Financial Sector Organizations

Explore current trends in accessibility practices and programs, business and legal drivers, and testing and tools, with insights and tips for marketing, legal and compliance, design and development, procurement, and more!

2021 State of Digital Accessibility for Financial Sector Organizations Report

A woman holding a magnifying glass up to a smartphone to get a closer look.

What does it mean for a site to be “accessible”?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) require that a website be:

Perceivable: If someone cannot see, written content can be read by a screen reader. If someone cannot hear, audio content has captions.

Operable: If someone cannot use a mouse or touchpad, they can navigate by keyboard or by voice command software. If someone moves or reads slowly, they can request additional time to complete a task.

Understandable: If someone clicks on a navigation menu, it behaves like a navigation menu. If an error is made on a form, an error message points out the location of the error and suggests how to fix it.

Robust: The site is compatible with current assistive technology and is prepared to roll up to future iterations of AT.

What kinds of barriers do customers with disabilities encounter?

Andrea is blind and uses screen reader technology on her laptop and iPhone to navigate the internet and mobile apps.

“I’m trying to fill out an application online, but the form fields aren’t labeled, so JAWS (my screen reader) is not telling me what information I should type into what field.”

Don is deaf-blind and uses a screen reader with audio output connected directly to his cochlear implant.

“My bank statements are a mess. There are sortable columns, but the headers are missing, so I can’t sort by the name of the item or by credit or debit. And don’t get me started on the PDFs. I can never read those.”

Martin has Parkinson’s disease and his severe hand tremors prevent him from using a mouse. He relies on his keyboard to navigate online.

“I needed a new car loan and was comparing online lenders’ rates. The site I was on used dropdown menus for navigation. I could tab through the top menu items, but wasn’t able to use my arrow keys to select from the dropdown lists. I looked for a sitemap link as an alternative, but no luck, so I moved on to a different site that I was able to use.” 

Benji has low vision and uses a screen magnifying program or pinch-to-zoom feature to make the text on her screen large enough to read.

“The help text for the retirement income calculator is printed inside the form field, but the contrast is so low, I can’t make out what it says.”

Frankie has severe arthritis in her hands and uses a speech-to-text program (Dragon NaturallySpeaking) to type and navigate the web.

“The button at the bottom of the Add a Bill form says ‘Add a Bill’, but when I ask Dragon to ‘click on Add a Bill’, it doesn’t click that button. It took some guessing, but it turns out I had to ask Dragon to click Submit.”

Emile has limited dexterity in his arms and hands and uses a switch to use his computer and iPad. Switch devices allow a person with limited mobility to input information by tapping two buttons—one to scroll and one to select.

“I filled out the entire form to apply for a loan. I got to the end of the page where it said to check that I accepted the terms and conditions, but it was impossible for me to navigate to the box and check it. All that work for nothing!” 

Why should I make accessibility a priority?

It reduces legal risk. If you haven’t received a complaint yet it’s likely only a matter of time before you do. Proactive, documented efforts to make your technology accessible are the best defense against legal action.

It increases market reach. Estimates are that 1 in 5 Americans has a disability that affects their daily life. Technology is a big part of daily life.

It helps sell more products. If you sell technology B2B or B2G, having an accessibility conformance report will rank your product higher in the minds of your buyers, especially in highly regulated industries or the government.

It’s the right thing to do. Just as you’d remove physical barriers to your place of business, you should also remove digital barriers for people with disabilities.

It benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. Accessibility best practices go hand-in-hand with better user experiences for everyone who interacts with your technology.

Read More About the Business Case for Accessibility

Making the Business Case for Accessibility. What you risk when ignoring accessibility and what you gain from embracing it.

graphic of a compliance score

How do I test my website’s accessibility?

Free tools can be a great place to start. There are several available that can give you a quick overview of your site’s compliance. Try to test multiple pages on your website and get a detailed report and compliance score.

Next, you’ll want to contact an accessibility expert to do an audit. During the audit process, there will be automated and manual testing, as well as functional testing by people with disabilities.

After the audit, you’ll receive a report with your overall level of compliance and a list of accessibility issues that need remediation. Depending on your relationship with your vendor, they can provide training, help desk support, or even code side-by-side with your developers.

Request a Free Compliance Check of your website