The American Disability Act (ADA) and digital accessibility issues are certainly not new. Yet, many banks and credit unions are just now scrambling to get various digital properties in compliance with the ADA by making them more accessible to those with various disabilities.
A slew of recent ADA related lawsuits targeting credit union and bank websites are the primary motivating factor. And if mitigating the potential liability is not motivating enough, annual regulatory audits will likely have an emphasis on digital ADA compliance throughout 2018.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with most regulation, there is no clear cut answer in how to be in compliance. Most of the guidance issued around digital ADA compliance is targeted at government agencies. But currently, the consensus is to make your digital properties conform to the WCAG 2.0 AA standards. These standards are quite lengthy and technical, but they enable those who have visual, auditory or other disabilities to more easily access your digital services - from your website to online & mobile banking to credit applications.
There are many companies that offer one-time assessments on your website’s WCAG 2.0 AA compliance. However, unless you specifically required your website to be built to these standards from its onset, it is extremely unlikely that it is in compliance.
A more powerful solution is an ongoing assessment of your website’s compliance level, with actionable steps that you or your staff can take to remediate any aspects of the website that are not in compliance.
Narmi is proud to release its ADA Website Compliance Monitoring Tool. On a monthly basis, you will receive a monthly report outlining your financial institution website’s compliance status. If you are not in compliance, specific recommendations are provided in order to achieve compliance. You can then pass these along to the staff member who manages the website, or your third-party website vendor.
These reports also demonstrate an ongoing and consistent effort to maintain ADA compliance. While there is no guarantee this type of service will prevent lawsuits, it is a relatively cost-effective way to mitigate the potential risk and headaches of a lawsuit. In addition, these reports may serve as additional protection from multiple lawsuits. In other words, many different “plaintiffs” could target your institution and you may have to settle with each individually.
An alternative is an entirely new website. A redesigned website can have a very high return on investment with respect to marketing, branding and establishing a stronger digital presence. This option should be considered by any financial institution who is willing to make both a time and monetary investment in its website.
No matter the approach, it is important to remember that compliance is not a one-and-done task. Instead, digital properties will need to be in continuous compliance. From a practical perspective, this will only be possible through consistent and actionable testing.