How can the financial industry address digital accessibility?
We have some ways to go before a service as fundamental as banking is inclusive for all
In a previous article, I highlighted my own experience in dealing with the financial sector of Bangladesh, and how many are still not up to date with how to provide services to persons with disabilities. However, there are some important ways that they can address this.
Identify common barriers
Nearly all websites are unusable to some visitors; they can only navigate them using a mouse. Often buttons are unlabeled so it is unclear what they were meant to do, and images lack alt text.
Additionally, nearly all banks and financial entities use PDF formats for their monthly statements. Many of these are inaccessible due to errors in reading order.
In many PDFs, the text is read out of order and tables do not read properly so customers cannot tell which numbers belong in which columns.
It's very difficult to parse information that is laid out in a table visually but presented to assistive technology users as a jumble of unrelated headings and numbers.
This means assistive technology users do not have the same experience as everyone else. They cannot easily access their financial information.
Pro-actively address issues
Inclusive and accessible banking services can benefit everyone. As the population ages, technologies advance, and commercial activities increase via the internet, incorporating accessibility into the design and functionality of websites and applications will benefit businesses and customers, regardless of their disabilities.
As a result, banking service providers and Bangladesh Bank must always consider who is facing difficulties in accessing the banking services and remove the barriers by following the National Accessibility Standards and ensuring legal and constitutional rights.
Having a credit or debit card is not a luxury, but rather a necessity for frequent travellers like me to meet the necessity of living outside the country and necessities like managing accommodation or various other facilities. An international credit card requirement thus becomes inevitable.
Bangladesh Bank's decision to conduct an assessment to identify the barriers concerning the accessibility in the banking sector of Bangladesh, with the assistance of a2i, has been a welcome move.
Progress was made by selecting four banks whose accessibility features were measured in various factors, along with banking accessibility reports.
In addition to that, Bangladesh Bank decided to place these banks as an example and take necessary implementation towards accessibility of the banking sector.
We are hoping that Bangladesh Bank will incorporate the necessary steps to make this a reality across the banking sector. Having such an approach will make lives easier for persons with disabilities.
With Bangladesh intending to become a cashless society and leaving no one behind, such changes will help create a Bangladesh that is more equitable for all.
Vashkar Bhattacharjee, a person with visual disability, serves as the National Accessibility Consultant for a2i. He is also involved with YPSA (Young Power in Social Action), an organization for sustainable development, and provides advisory support towards its disability portfolio. He has worked to advance inclusive development and humanitarian action for over 18 years.