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Accessibility as a fundamental aspect of customer service and societal inclusion

                  Contact: Jan Benedict Market Lead Cognizant Digital Experience CE

CognizantIn the intricate landscape of modern banking, where digital interfaces serve as the gateway to financial services, ensuring accessibility isn't just a matter of legal compliance; it's a fundamental aspect of customer service and societal inclusion. The European Accessibility Act, particularly relevant for leading banks in Switzerland and Germany, underscores the imperative for navigating the complex terrain of accessibility legislation with diligence and foresight.

This article aims to serve as a guiding beacon amidst this regulatory labyrinth, shedding light on the importance of digital accessibility for banks of substantial stature. While compliance with legislative mandates is undoubtedly crucial, the focus need to extend beyond mere adherence to the law; but a paradigm shift towards inclusive banking experiences that transcend barriers and empower every individual, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities.

Unveiling the consequences of increased legislation

The consequences of non-compliance with accessibility legislation are far-reaching and multi-faceted. Legal ramifications loom large, with the European Accessibility Act setting stringent requirements for digital accessibility. The European Accessibility Act (EAA) creates equal access for Europeans with disabilities by setting new EU-wide minimum accessibility requirements for newly marketed products and services. 

Starting June 28 2025, customers in financial and banking domain can take legal action against businesses if their products and services are not compliant. Additionally, the EU Digital Services Act and EU Digital Markets Act aim to create a safer digital space where users' fundamental rights are protected and to establish a level playing field for businesses. These three laws combined provide a legal framework and establish governance of all banking digital products and services, ensuring accessibility and safety of users. Failure to meet these standards can result in substantial fines and penalties, placing significant financial strain for banking institutions.

Moreover, the impact on reputation and brand perception cannot be overstated. Instances of inaccessible digital platforms can quickly spiral into negative publicity, eroding trust and credibility among customers. In today's interconnected world, where news travels fast and public opinion holds considerable sway, the fallout from such reputational damage can be severe and long-lasting.

However, perhaps the most pressing concern is the exclusion of customers with disabilities. Statistics underscore the significant percentage of the population affected by disabilities, highlighting the ethical imperative for banks to ensure equitable access to their services. By overlooking the needs of these individuals, banks not only perpetuate societal barriers but also risk alienating a substantial portion of their customer base, leading to decreased engagement and loyalty.

Facing the Reality: Challenges in Achieving Digital Accessibility

Navigating the path towards digital accessibility is fraught with complexities, presenting formidable challenges for banks and financial institutes. One of the primary hurdles lies in the sheer breadth and depth of achieving digital accessibility. Accommodating the diverse range of disabilities and individual needs demands a comprehensive approach, encompassing everything from website design to mobile applications and beyond. Retrofitting existing digital infrastructure to meet accessibility standards can be a daunting task, requiring significant time, resources, and expertise.

Compounding these challenges is the pervasive lack of awareness and expertise within banking institutions. Many leaders and decision-makers may not fully grasp the intricacies of digital accessibility or the urgency of compliance with relevant legislation. This gap in understanding can lead to underestimation of the scope of work required and a tendency to prioritize other initiatives perceived as more pressing. Consequently, banks may find themselves ill-equipped to address accessibility issues effectively, perpetuating barriers to inclusion for individuals with disabilities.

In the face of these challenges, it's imperative for banks to confront the reality of their current state and take proactive steps to bridge the knowledge gap and overcome obstacles to accessibility. Failure to do so not only jeopardizes compliance with legal mandates but also undermines the core principles of inclusivity and equitable access that should underpin every facet of banking services. 

Strategies for Inclusive Digital Experiences: Enhancing Accessibility in Banking

In navigating the intricate terrain of digital accessibility, banks encounter specific challenges that demand tailored strategies for compliance and improvement. 

Here are key approaches to address these challenges effectively:

1. Building awareness and training within the organization: Establishing a culture of accessibility awareness within banks is paramount. This begins with comprehensive training sessions for designers, developers, content creators, and decision-makers. By cultivating a shared understanding of accessibility principles and their significance, banks can empower employees to integrate accessibility considerations seamlessly into their workflows. This proactive approach lays the groundwork for sustainable progress in enhancing digital accessibility.

2. Implementing accessibility standards and best practices: Adhering to established accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), provides a structured framework for banks to follow. By incorporating accessibility best practices into design and development processes, banks can systematically address common accessibility barriers. Integrating accessibility from the outset of digital initiatives minimizes retrofitting costs and maximizes the impact of accessibility efforts.

3. Conducting regular audits and user testing: Ongoing evaluation and refinement are essential components of maintaining digital accessibility. Regular audits of digital platforms enable banks to identify accessibility gaps and prioritize remediation efforts effectively. Additionally, engaging users with disabilities in testing sessions offers valuable insights into the usability and accessibility of banking services. By soliciting feedback from individuals with disabilities, banks can iteratively improve accessibility and ensure that their digital offerings meet diverse user needs.

4. Partnering with accessibility experts and organizations: Collaboration with external accessibility experts and organizations can augment banks' internal capabilities in addressing accessibility challenges. Partnering with specialized consultants or accessibility-focused agencies provides access to expertise and resources that complement internal efforts. Furthermore, participation in industry forums and initiatives dedicated to accessibility facilitates knowledge sharing and enables banks to stay informed about emerging trends and best practices in the field.

By embracing these strategies and taking a proactive approach to digital accessibility, banks can enhance their inclusivity and ensure equitable access for all customers. Despite the challenges inherent in navigating digital accessibility, these targeted strategies empower banks to overcome barriers and create accessible digital experiences that benefit everyone.

Cognizant`s comprehensive Digital Accessibility Solutions for Banking

In the pursuit of advancing accessibility standards within the banking and financial sector, the digital accessibility practice at Cognizant offers comprehensive solutions tailored to the specific requirements of financial institutions. With a team comprising over 150 professionals and 60 certified experts, spread across a global network of 35 offices including Switzerland and Germany, our capabilities extend to addressing accessibility challenges at both local and international levels. This localized approach ensures compliance with regional legislation and regulations, while our diverse range of services supports organizations throughout the entire product lifecycle. From consultation to implementation, our flexible operational and pricing models empower organizations to create inclusive digital experiences that cater to the needs of all users.

Fast Track Accessibility with Cognizant's Accelerator Service and WACC Tool

Cognizant's accelerator services and web accessibility compliance checker (WACC) tool are invaluable assets in fostering inclusive digital experiences. They evaluate crucial flows, screens, or functionalities of your digital products for accessibility compliance. By concentrating on these pivotal areas and prioritizing the most essential WCAG success criteria, our team of experts swiftly assesses your products' accessibility maturity. This assessment furnishes compelling evidence to guide subsequent actions effectively. A comprehensive report identifies prioritized areas for enhancement, empowering you to efficiently tackle accessibility issues and instill stakeholder confidence in expanding the accessibility initiatives' scope as necessary.

Empowering Inclusive Experiences: Success Stories in Digital Accessibility

Explore a carefully curated collection of case studies providing invaluable insights into successful digital accessibility initiatives. These narratives serve as illuminating guides, detailing the challenges faced by organizations, the strategic approaches used to overcome them, and the tangible results obtained.

Building Accessibility Excellence: Establishing a Center of Enablement

Embarking on a transformative journey, Cognizant partnered with a leading Banking institute in the EU region to establish a dedicated program aimed at ensuring compliance with the accessibility mandate of the European Accessibility Act (EAA). 

Challenges faced:

- Understanding the complex landscape of accessibility regulations and requirements outlined by the EAA.

- Identifying existing gaps in accessibility practices and processes within the bank's digital ecosystem.

- Establishing a framework to prioritize accessibility initiatives amidst competing organizational priorities.

Cognizant initiated a comprehensive discovery initiative spanning six weeks, laying the foundation for the establishment of a 'Center of Enablement' team. Comprising four offshore and one near-shore member, this team was tasked with driving accessibility excellence within the organization.

To gain deeper insights, over 25 in-depth interviews were conducted with a diverse range of stakeholders, illuminating the current accessibility landscape and highlighting areas for improvement. Through this process, opportunities for enhancing target accessibility maturity were identified and prioritized.

In collaboration with the bank, Cognizant provided accessibility consultation to over 120 Agile Teams, encompassing various roles such as assessment, remediation, and change management. This holistic approach ensured that accessibility considerations were integrated seamlessly into the bank's Agile development processes.

Outcomes:

- Enhanced understanding of accessibility requirements and regulations among bank stakeholders.

- Establishment of a dedicated 'Center of Enablement' team to drive accessibility initiatives forward.

- Development of a customized implementation plan with short-term, mid-term, and long-term accessibility roadmaps, providing clear guidance for prioritizing and executing accessibility initiatives.

- Improved collaboration and alignment across Agile Teams, fostering a culture of accessibility excellence within the organization.

- Positioning the bank for compliance with the European Accessibility Act (EAA) and enhancing its reputation as a leader in accessibility within the banking industry.

Phased Remediation: Achieving Accessibility Compliance Across Applications

Embarking on a strategic partnership with a prominent Financial service provider, Cognizant undertook the task of conducting an extensive accessibility assessment, remediation, and verification based on WCAG 2 guidelines.

Challenges Faced:

- Identifying and addressing accessibility gaps across multiple applications while ensuring compliance with WCAG 2 guidelines.

- Minimizing effort and streamlining processes to adapt to the extensive client environment and requirements.

- Ensuring zero functional defects during regression testing post-remediation to uphold accessibility standards effectively.

Employing a phased approach, Cognizant successfully achieved accessibility compliance by remedying identified gaps across three distinct applications. By retaining the same team for all applications, a remarkable 10-15% reduction in effort was realized. This approach facilitated rapid adaptation to the client's complex processes and enabled the effective reuse of gained insights and understanding.

During regression testing post-remediation, the meticulous implementation of unit testing ensured zero functional defects, thereby validating the effectiveness of the remediation efforts and adherence to WCAG 2 guidelines.

Outcomes:

- Attainment of accessibility compliance across three applications, demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity and equitable access.

- Significant reduction in effort and resource allocation, resulting in improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness in accessibility initiatives.

- Seamless adaptation to the extensive client environment, fostering collaboration and alignment with organizational processes and requirements.

- Assurance of high-quality standards, with zero functional defects detected during regression testing post-remediation.

- Successful onboarding of a dedicated team of 8+ associates for a year-long engagement, ensuring continuity and sustainability in accessibility efforts.

 


Subhashini Natarajan

Digital Accessibility Champion CE, Cognizant

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Subhashini Natarajan, spearheads the Accessibility Center of Excellence as part of Cognizant Digital Experience. Leveraging her expertise, she assists our clients in integrating robust accessibility programs into their digital transformation strategies, ensuring sustainable and inclusive digital experiences.





Jan Benedict

Market Lead Cognizant Digital Experience CE, Cognizant

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Jan Benedict is representing Cognizant Digital Experience, is a leading innovation and experience consultancy. With a focus on unearthing pivotal moments within customer and employee journeys, Jan guides brands towards crafting meaningful experiences that resonate deeply with their audiences.





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