Digital accessibility is gaining increasing traction as an issue in Australia. But while advocates argue inclusive design should be standard practice, new research suggests many organisations are still lagging. Even a sector like finance, often considered a leader in accessibility, is struggling.

According to research from Siteimprove, 94 per cent of the Australian financial companies reviewed are “doing poorly in their accessibility efforts”.

Siteimprove, a software company offering automated accessibility assessment products, crawled over 20,000 pages of the 50 largest Australian banking companies (by revenue) to determine their “Digital Certainty Index” – a website rating based on quality assurance, SEO, and accessibility. The findings are contained in a report; Digital Industry Snapshot – Website Quality Trends in the Australian Finance Industry.

The average overall website performance score for Australian finance companies was 72 (out of 100), a “medium” mark just above the “poor” cut-off of 70. According to the report, the score means “these companies are barely performing adequately on average”.

Alarmingly, overall scores are being brought down primarily because of poor accessibility – clearly the lowest mark of the three major DCI measures.

Accessibility remains a challenge

According to the report the average mark for accessibility was 59 and more than nine out of ten Australian financial companies are “doing poorly” in accessibility. In Australia there are over four million people with a disability, and digital accessibility remains a challenge.

“It is fair to say that Australia has had a mixed record on improving accessibility to digital technology for people with disability,” Alastair McEwin, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, told Which-50 earlier this year.

While “great strides” have been made, much of Australia’s digital technology remains inaccessible, according to McEwin. Sadly, the point was on show earlier this year when Nadia Mattiazzo, a blind woman, sued the Commonwealth Bank over its alleged discriminatory eftpos machines.

“For most people managing their own financial situation would feel like a basic right in our society. However, this is not the case for many people with disabilities,” said Siteimprove Lead Accessibility Strategist, EMEA & APAC, Stein Erik Skotkjerra.

Poor accessibility potentially blocks access to every fifth customer, Skotkjerra says, and can leave them dependent on others for sensitive matters, including finance. It can be humiliating and also poses a potential security risk, exposing sensitive data”.

The dynamic nature of web content and the range of teams contributing to it means website accessibility cannot be achieved through an individual scan or audit, since some checks require manual human audits to provide context. But automated testing can be a good indication of how the website is performing as a whole,and provides a good starting point, as well as ongoing maintenance.

It’s recommended that organisations carry out a combination of automated and manual testing to ensure their website is fully compliant.

Manisha Amin, CEO, Centre for Inclusive Design told Which-50 accessibility should be part of a accessibility by design approach and the finance industry has an opportunity for growth and innovation.

“Inclusive design takes accessibility to a new level by focusing on creating products and services that can be used considering the full range of human diversity where everyone is taken into account in the design stage,” Amin said.

“It’s not about creating things for people with disability but about reducing customer churn and increasing innovation, which is a great opportunity for growth within the finance industry.”

Siteimprove’s Skotkjerra agrees, accessibility is not an isolated issue, but rather an important part of good user experience.

“Those who get the best return on investment from incorporating accessibility into their companies are those who take a wholistic approach and regard accessibility as a tool in the user experience toolbox,” he said.

About the author

Joseph Brookes is a writer for the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit, of which Siteimprove is a Corporate Member. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.


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