Inclusion is becoming increasingly more important in the financial world due to both legislation and the public’s evolving expectations. Still, there are misconceptions about the need to offer accessibility to consumers and employees in the finance sector. Taking inclusion into consideration is a must for a multitude of reasons. First, failing to meet the needs of people with disabilities, among many others, can lead to litigation and bad press. Additionally, companies that aren’t prioritizing accessibility may struggle to attract investors or win top talent.
To begin taking action, it’s important to identify areas where the financial sector and your own company might be neglecting people with varying needs. Most often, these oversights are unintentional, but that doesn’t mean they won’t lead to consequences. Fortunately, you can make small changes to your organization that will support inclusion and greater access.
To fully understand the importance, here are three accessibility-related myths that persist in the finance industry, but must be dispelled. Without a deeper understanding of their falsity, financial institutions will surely exclude individuals and miss out on business opportunities.
Myth 1: People with disabilities don’t have much wealth
It’s true that according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with disabilities face higher unemployment rates than the general population. Perhaps that understanding or biases in general cause people to underestimate the wealth of individuals with disabilities and their households.
Naturally, not all people with disabilities live in poverty, and excluding anyone from financial and investment opportunities is unethical and bad for business. Beyond that, there are two serious flaws with the assumption that disabilities indicate a lack of wealth. Also, there are very good reasons for these individuals to invest.
Wealth of people with disabilities
Together, the population of people with disabilities controls a massive $13 trillion in disposable income. According to Forbes, the spending power of people with disabilities creates a business opportunity that is “far too big to miss.”
Additionally, people with disabilities are facing better employment opportunities than ever before. More inclusive workplaces and a strong job market are allowing new chances for these individuals to grow their wealth. As they do, they will have a greater need for accessible investment and financial firms.
Hearing loss and investors by age
Another issue is that people who invest skew older, and so does hearing loss. In fact, many types of disabilities become more common as people age. As a result, the demographics for top investors and the demographics at the most significant risk of developing disabilities overlap significantly.
Failing to accommodate these active investors can frustrate them and cause them to take their investment portfolios and banking business elsewhere. Partnering with Verbit to offer reliable, accurate captions is one of the most important ways to ensure that older investors have easy, equitable access to information.
People with disabilities should be investing
Another fact to consider is that people with disabilities should be investing because it offers a form of non-earned income. The government can cut Social Security disability payments for people with disabilities if they earn too much income from work. Earned income suggests a person doesn’t need disability benefits because they’re capable of working. However, investments are a form of passive income that will not impact a person’s benefits. Investing is one way these individuals can grow their wealth and increase their independence without putting their financial security at risk.
Winning business from these potential investors might require some educational marketing campaigns. Naturally, those campaigns will need to be accessible.
MYTH 2: The financial industry doesn’t need to worry about online accessibility
Online accessibility requirements can be confusing. While most financial institutions understand their obligations to adhere to laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, it isn’t always clear how that legislation applies to online spaces. As a result, even organizations that understand their obligations to create accessible physical spaces and accommodations for employees may fall short. The assumption that websites, online events and video marketing don’t need to meet any specific standards is understandable, but incorrect.
However, this thinking isn’t just flawed- it’s also risky.
The ADA may apply to online content
The ADA doesn’t include a provision on web accessibility. The law predates the public internet by about a year. Therefore, the importance of online access didn’t factor into legislators’ minds as they drafted the requirements.
Despite the lack of clear guidance, people with disabilities have sued large corporations for inadequate online accessibility. Some courts found in favor of the plaintiffs and indicated that the judicial system is willing to apply Title III of the ADA’s provision for places of “public accommodations” to online spaces.
In the last couple of years, these lawsuits spiked. The Wall Street Journal reported that ADA web accessibility cases were up 64% in 2021. Such numbers highlight the potential complications that a poorly designed website may create.
Employees and potential new hires also benefit from the protections of the ADA under Title II of the Act. Accommodations are, therefore, necessary for online job applications, conference calls and webinars.
Even if the risk of litigation weren’t so high, you still need to consider online accessibility.
ESG factors include accessibility
Environmental, social and economic factors (ESG) are critical to modern investors. Recently, reports have indicated that investment opportunities that qualify as ESG-friendly perform better than those that don’t. Corporations that prioritize ESG tend to be healthy and at lower risk of litigation for environmental or governance violations.
Additionally, young investors cite ESG factors as important when making financial decisions. Accessibility falls into the “social” category of ESG. As a result, failing to accommodate people with disabilities can negatively impact a corporation’s status as a solid investment option.
Without the risk of legal complications related to inaccessibility, the influence of ESG in the financial sector still illustrates the importance of accommodating people with disabilities. For consumers with disabilities, taking the proper steps can increase their autonomy and reduce security risks.
MYTH 3: People with disabilities know how to work around accessibility barriers
When financial sector environments aren’t inclusive for people with disabilities, there can be severe consequences. It’s no longer acceptable for individuals with disabilities to not be able to access their online accounts. It’s simply not right to require them to receive assistance from another person, and by doing so, you’re more likely to lose them as clients. For example, CAPTCHAs, which are a security step that helps prevent cyber attacks, are often inaccessible to people who are blind.
When a person needs help getting into their bank account, they lose their privacy, autonomy and potentially put themselves in danger. Given the sensitive nature of financial information, these individuals should have the tools they need to take control of their banking and investment accounts.
Solutions that help the financial industry accommodate people with disabilities
Accommodating people with disabilities is a broad effort. However, there are a few solutions you can incorporate to quickly and easily boost your financial institution’s accessibility.
Captions are one of the most common accessibility solutions you should be offering your customers and employees. Whether you’re hosting financial education webinars, producing online advertisements for your services or providing training for employees, captions improve access, retention and comprehension. With Verbit, adding captions to both recorded and live content is simple and makes them accessible to individuals with disabilities. Additionally, this solution benefits many others who prefer to consume information with captions or to watch with the sound off.
Leaders at financial institutions can add captions to all their audio and video content, including:
Transcripts sometimes serve a similar purpose as captions in that they accommodate people who are Deaf and hard of hearing. There are areas where they are the better option, such as when making audio-only recordings accessible. For instance, many major financial institutions, including JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, are now producing podcasts. Creating transcripts of those podcasts every time is a must. Additionally, searchable transcripts like Verbit’s are a helpful tool for anyone searching for a specific phrase or point in a recording.
Transcripts can benefit those with auditory processing disorders and people who prefer to digest information from calls in written form. Financial media companies, including The Motley Fool, partner with Verbit to provide this helpful service to their clients and investors who rely on them for up-to-date market analysis.
Screen reader compatibility
Websites should be accessible to people who are blind. In addition to making accessible CAPTCHAs and security features, it’s vital to ensure that the website is compatible with screen readers. Screen readers are a tool that people who are blind use to navigate the internet. The device reads web pages aloud or converts text to braille.
Additionally, customers of banks or investment platforms who are blind will need access to forms and buttons that include descriptions. The descriptions offer information that informs these users of what they need to fill in or where a link will take them.
Unfortunately, many sites have content that isn’t accessible to screen readers. Inadequate button and link descriptions are also common.
Audio description is a solution that makes video content accessible to people who are blind. It works by using speakers who give verbal descriptions during gaps in the original audio to provide context for those who cannot see the on-screen images. If your company is putting out marketing or training videos, adding audio description will allow people who are blind to consume that content with equity.
Taking the time to assess and address inaccessible content online can prevent litigation, while also sending a strong message to the public about a company’s principles. When consumers trust a business with something as crucial as their finances, they should know that the organization values them.
Verbit is an essential partner to financial institutions striving to build more inclusive businesses. Contact us to learn more about our captioning, transcription, audio description and other accessibility solutions for the financial sector.