Steps to Enhance Inclusion in the Finance & Banking Space Using a VPAT

  • 28.03.2023

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    Inclusion in the finance and banking space

    Inclusion in the financial and banking sector refers to providing people, including those with disabilities, and businesses with access to financial and banking products and services that satisfy their needs for payments, transactions, savings, credit, and insurance while also being provided in a sustainable and responsible manner.

    Financial and banking inclusion aims to lower the barriers that prevent people from taking part in these sectors and using these services to better their lives, especially those with disabilities. It enables people with disabilities to obtain banking and financial products and services, including loans, deposits, fund transfers, and payment services, among others, at costs that take into account the difficulties they face in daily life.

    By assisting people, including those with disabilities, to manage their financial and banking risks, plan for the future, and invest in themselves, financial and banking inclusion can contribute to the reduction of poverty and inequality.

    Inclusion in the finance and banking sectors can benefit participants in such sectors by lowering corruption, discouraging tax fraud that punishes honest participants in those sectors, and enabling more efficient subsidy payments. Financial and banking inclusion enables organizations to cover more of their market, lowering the risks associated with focusing on a narrow segment of it. This translates to increased revenue and profits.

    The need for financial inclusion in the banking and finance sectors has increased dramatically over the past few years. The voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) has become a significant resource for those looking for inclusive or accessible financial and banking products and services as financial and banking institutions move more and more toward more accessible ways of serving their clients.

    Using a VPAT to deliver or confirm inclusion in finance and banking

    The accessibility of financial and banking services to individuals with disabilities is being greatly improved through web-based financial and banking goods and services. Despite this, did you know that research has shown that owing to access restrictions, three to five people are unable to utilize websites and applications related to banking and finance? What’s even more concerning is that, in 2022, three-quarters of visually impaired people who used online banking and finance services asked a sighted person for assistance with these tasks.

    It is essential for everyone, including those with disabilities, to have access to banking and financial services. Sad to say, just 40% of financial and banking establishments are accessible, making many of their goods and services unavailable to those with disabilities.

    In order to compel the U.S. federal organizations make their information and communication technology (ICT) accessible to people with disabilities, Congress revised the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in 1998. The amendment ensures that ICT, which is essential for making banking and financial services accessible to those with disabilities, is conscientiously made accessible.

    Based on Section 508 accessibility requirements, no finance and banking institution can provide its products or services to federal organizations as well as the federally funded organizations.

    The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) created the VPAT to assist companies and organizations in demonstrating how their ICT goods and services adhere to the accessibility requirements, including Section 508 accessibility standards.

    The VPAT template assists in demonstrating how an ICT product or service complies with accepted IT accessibility standards, namely the Section 508 Standard, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the EN 301 EN 549 European Union requirements for publicly available ICT in Europe.

    The use of the VPAT template has been embraced by ICT product and service purchasers and suppliers outside of public spaces due to its popularity in providing a reliable account of the degree of accessibility of an ICT product or service. By looking at VPAT accessibility conformance reports (ACRs) before using or purchasing ICT products or services, users and consumers end up promoting accessibility and inclusion in a significant way.

    Companies who do not take aggressive steps to improve inclusive access to their ICT products and services run the risk of being sued for enabling discrimination, as well as losing customers who will choose more accessible alternatives. Even if your product or service has the best features and functions, potential buyers or customers will pass it up if it doesn’t have a VPAT ACR.

    With the prevailing cutthroat competition for customers and business in the finance and banking sectors, the institutions that do not demonstrate conformance to inclusivity through promotion of accessibility risk losing their customers to their more accessibility considerate competitors. Numerous financial and banking institutions have caught wind of the situation and are making every effort to ensure that their products and services comply with VPAT to the highest standard.

    The VPAT process is complicated. Let us handle it for you.

      Steps to using the VPAT for enhanced finance and banking inclusion

      Here are some of the key steps you can use toward enhancing inclusion in your banking and finance ICT products and services with the help of a VPAT:

      1. Learn from a credible VPAT ACR example

      One of the ways you can make things regarding using a VPAT ACR to enhance inclusion in your finance and banking undertakings is to review an inclusive VPAT ACR example, which covers compliance with Section 508 and WCAG. Anyone can understand it, regardless of the complexity (or lack or it) of his or her business enterprise.

      1. Download the correct accessibility VPAT template and study it

      Download the correct edition and version of the VPAT template and study the instructions provided therein. The latest version is the VPAT 2.4 template, which comes in four editions that address the accessibility requirements for different markets of operational environments.

      The Section 508 VPAT should be used if you want your ICT product or service to be procurable by the U.S. federal organizations. The WCAG VPAT is used to document the accessibility of digital products and services, including websites, software, apps, digital instructional materials, etc.

      The EU VPAT is used to document the accessibility of products and services based on the EN 301 549 European accessibility standard, while the International (INT) VPAT combines the three and is used to document products and services procurable globally.

      Once you download the correct VPAT template, you’ll notice that the template consists of two sections: instructions for use and the VPAT itself. You should ensure you present a thorough and honest analysis of your products or services in the VPAR ACR you create.

      1. Filling out the VPAT template

      You may find filling out the VPAT a technical process that requires prior knowledge and experience in the accessibility domain. That is why you have the leeway to either compete the document in-house or hire an experienced third party accessibility specialist. The later is highly recommended, and ADACP provides these services, just as many others do.

      When choosing a VPAT consultant to assist you with enhancing the inclusion of your ICT products or services through the VPAT ACR, ensure you undertake due diligence on the available ones. You don’t want to spend your money and time only to get a VPAT report that will be a basis for ridicule to your business or organization by the procurement officials where you submit it to, do you?

      Whether you opt to create the VPAT ACR in-house or by hiring an independent VPAT specialist to assist you do it, the steps the process of filling out the VPAT template will involve the following:

      • Identification of the sections of the technical standards in the VPAT template that apply to your finance and banking products or services.
      • Reviewing each section of the technical standards to establish if your product or service conforms to the listed specific accessibility criteria.
      • Selecting the conformance level that best describes your product or services from the 5 possible options: supports, partially supports, does not support, not applicable, and not evaluated.
      • Provision of detailed explanations regarding how your product or service complied or failed to comply with the set standards.
      • Going back to the summary table to document the overall level of compliance associated with the product or service in each of the applicable sections.
      • Ascertaining the completeness of the VPAT ACR by going through every column in the table sections as well as every line.
      • Making sure that the column on remarks and evaluation has detailed explanations that demonstrate and support the accuracy of your answers.

      Once you have followed the foregoing steps in using the VPAT to foster accessibility in your finance and banking products and services, the final thing you need to do is to make the duly filled VPAT ACR publicly accessible. This can be done by posting it on your website of providing an accessible link or information about where those who want to review it can easily access it.

      Need help with filling out a VPAT for your finance and banking institution?

      The finance and banking sectors are very sensitive when it comes to credibility and provision of accurate information. Having a VPAT report for your product or service that has credibility issues can deal a huge blow to your business.

      ADACP can help you enhance inclusion in your finance and banking enterprise by helping you attain the highest kevel of VPAT compliance.

      For more information about how we can assist you, feel free to talk to our VPAT consultant at (626) 486-2201. You can also take advantage of our free consultations to ask any questions you have about inclusion in the finance and banking space.