Multi-Channel Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to ADA Compliance Guidelines for Financial Institutions

by Zach Williams

Hopefully by now your financial institution has heard about the new compliance rules from the Department of Justice that went into effect in April 2018.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be expanded to include requirements for websites so that they can be fully accessed by visually-impaired individuals and others.

It may seem as though you have plenty of time to implement these changes, but like most new regulations, it’s best to get started right away to avoid any potential missteps.

While updating your website for ADA compliance may feel like a burden, most of these practices can also help your SEO efforts, so think of it as having twice the benefits.

I’ll take you step by step through the new guidelines so you can create an implementation plan for your financial institution to stay on track to relaunch your ADA-compliant website by the spring deadline.

Why Does Your Financial Institution Need to Meet ADA Regulations?

Historically, the ADA has been an important piece of civil rights legislation that dictates how physical buildings must incorporate handicap accessible features. Ramps, elevators, handicap parking spots, and Braille are all examples of how companies comply with the ADA.

As we progress into a tech-reliant society, the DOJ has now issued regulations on websites so that visually-impaired people can still navigate their way through the Internet. This is especially important for financial institutions because they cannot legally deny anyone a financial product or service based on their disability.

If your financial institution has a website that doesn’t allow for visually-impaired people to fully access your services, then by default they’re being denied a product because of discrimination. There has already been legal precedence in this area with major retailers like Target offering large settlements through the National Federation of the Blind for customers who were unable to shop online.

Obviously, you want to avoid the potential for a lawsuit against your financial institution. But beyond that, the real heart of the matter behind these new guidelines is ensuring that everyone has equal access to the same suite of financial products and services.

ADA Compliance Basics: What Your Website Should Include

A 2016 DOJ investigation of the University of California at Berkeley resulted in using W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as the basis for ADA compliance. There are four principles used to offer guidance that are then broken into specific actions items.

The broad categories are:

  1. Perceivable
  2. Operable
  3. Understandable
  4. Robust

Let’s take a look at each one a bit more closely so you know what changes your financial institution’s website may need.

Perceivable Guidelines

This category provides four areas that must be incorporated into any ADA compliant website.

Text Alternatives: All non-text content on your website you should a text alternative. So things like images should have some type of text to go along with it that can be interpreted by an individual who otherwise couldn’t see it.

Time-based Media: Similarly, any media such as video or audio should have a text script available to supplement the original content. Captions should also be available for any pre-recorded or live audio that’s on your website.

Adaptable: Your content should be presented in multiple ways while always retaining the same information and structure. An example of non-compliance for this section is to have directions such as, “click the arrow to the right,” without any identifying text on the actual arrow.

Distinguishable: Content should be easily read and heard. You can achieve this by keeping your foreground and background separate, using larger fonts, and highlighting hyperlinks.

Operable Guidelines

The operable guidelines help to ensure that your website’s functionality is easy for all users. These changes are all pretty easy to implement if you haven’t already.

Keyboard Accessible: A web visitor should be able to navigate all portions of your site by using a keyboard.

Enough Time: Make sure all users have enough time to get through your content. Think about how long a user has before they’re automatically logged out of their online account, for example.

Seizures: Be aware of your content, particularly images and videos, and make sure they’re not designed in a way that could trigger a seizure. That means no major flashing, with a limit of three flashes in one second.

Navigable: Again, your entire website needs to have full navigability for all users. Page titles should be specific and relevant and content headings should be descriptive.

Understandable Guidelines

These guidelines apply to both the website’s information and operation, which should be presented in a logical way for all users to understand.

Readable: We all know that quality content is key for any financial institution’s website, and this guideline extends that premise to a new level. Text should be limited to the lower secondary reading level, or have an alternate version available if it’s higher than that. When using abbreviations, be sure to provide the full meaning in some way.

Predictable: Each page should operate in a predictable manner. For example, any automatic changes to settings shouldn’t change the context of the page for users, unless they’re notified in advance.

Input Assistance: Your website should help users avoid and fix mistakes when inputting information. Instead of an entry like “invalid field” when filling out a form, the prompt should specifically what information is missing or incorrect.

Robust Guidelines

This category details how to improve your financial institution’s website coding in order for assistive readers to fully function and translate the correct information.

Compatible: This basically means that your HTML code should be standard and recognized by all browsers (not just Google Chrome or Internet Explorer).

The WCAG guidelines go into much greater detail than what I’ve outlined above, so definitely use that website as a resource when auditing your website for ADA compliance. You’ll find multiple descriptions for each point, along with examples of relevant techniques and failures.

See How Your Financial Institution Stacks Up: Perform an ADA Compliance Audit

Is your website ADA compliant? You may already meet some of the DOJ’s requirements, but lack in others. You can do a run-through of the four categories above to see how your current website performs and where you need to focus your updates before April 2018.

If you don’t have the time or the skillset to do this, you can work with a specialized agency to help you through the process. Since Achieve Marketing focuses solely on financial institutions, we’re already experts in ADA compliance. So whether you need help with an audit or actual implementation, we can walk you through the steps on a timeline that gets you ready.

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