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We Spent a Few Days with Community Bankers. Here is What We Learned.

One of the plights of working in a profession that dedicates itself to making digital content more accessible is that too few people understand or have any knowledge of the topic; at AudioEye, we refer to it as “the knowledge lane”. Far too often, we find ourselves explaining what digital accessibility is and how a sizable portion of the population is truly impacted by inaccessible content; far too often we hear, “I didn’t even now that was a thing”.

This week, I spent a few days with 600 hundred (or so) of the nation’s leading community banking professionals at the American Bankers Association National Conference for Community Bankers held in Orlando, Florida. Given the intense focus that the community banking space has found itself under as a result of the massive increase in legal demand letters we found ourselves in a room where the vast majority of people we met were in the knowledge lane. We could argue for days the merits and ethics related to why these hard-working local banking professionals were as aware of the topic as they are, but for now, let’s just focus on the fact that they are.

A few trends that we picked up on.

  1. Many of the third-party platforms that these banks have been using to develop and host their websites were and are not accessible; by extension, this means that these bankers had inaccessible sites.
  2. These 3rd party platforms are scrambling to catch up and most have not been able to articulate a plan or timeline to their customers. The continued refrain is “that is a problem and we are working on”.
  3. Too many financial institutions are just focusing on catching up to make these legal demands go away, without a plan to maintain accessibility in their sites. Many did not realize they need to continue the process to keep further actions away and maintain sites that are always accessible.
  4. Community bankers are seeking new customers, and look to re-train their existing customers. The way they do this is by servicing and attending to the needs of their customers more personally than the big banks can.
  5. Far too many of these banks have brought accessibility to their IT department's attention, or their outsourced web development firm's attention, and been assured their site is “OK”. I can tell you that, bank site after bank site that we looked at, where an executive officer from the bank was told they were good, were ANYTHING but good. If they created the problem for you, they are probably not fully capable of correcting the problem. With the risk of legal action, do not take anyone’s word for it.
  6. Many of these banks spent relatively low amounts of their budget dedicated to their web presence, and, as a result, they need resources that enable them to address this need quickly and economically.
  7. There are more institutions with needs than there are accessibility experts to do the work. Far too many bankers we spoke with that expressed accessibility needs were relying on professionals that had little to no expertise in the space.
  8. Bankers are looking to get this issue addressed in an expedited manner so they can clear this issue off their long list of things they need to address. They are fighting for their lives in the current business landscape and issues like this lingering for them is burdensome. They clearly recognize the need to have accessible content, but survival is ahead of accessibility on their “things to do” list. They just want someone to take care of this for them.

So, with all these observations, here is a breakdown of how and why the AudioEye approach to digital accessibility has been received as well as it has for the last year and a half in the community banking industry:

  1. “Speed to Accessibility”- The AudioEye solution enables most banks to render their site accessible and, to the greatest extent possible, conformed to WCAG 2.0 AA in 100 days (and often much quicker than that). Additionally, our unique layer of usability tools provides these bankers a competitive advantage, enabling their customers to customize their experience on their site as well as provide resources to their sizable, aging customer base that can benefit from these free assistive utilities.
  2. Scale – By partnering with AudioEye, these financial institutions do not have to wait in line for those other companies to free up their bandwidth to get to their manual, time-consuming approach started. With AudioEye, a sizable percentage of their inaccessible content is addressed immediately and a bold and clear accessibility statement is pronounced on their site, communicating their understanding of (and stage of addressing) accessibility. When technology is our foundation, we have the capacity to address accessibility at scale, enabling hundreds of customers to be helped at once. Since January 1st, AudioEye has averaged better than one new bank a day added to our platform.
  3. Economy – These small community banking institutions have financial pressures coming at them from all directions, and paying more to make their site accessible than they paid to have their site developed and hosted, is not practical or possible. AudioEye’s technology-first approach enables us to make sites accessible for a fraction of the cost of the traditional, manual approach.
  4. 3rd party platforms – Many of these community banks utilize a third party to develop or host their site. AudioEye’s technology-first approach enables us to work with these 3rd party providers to deliver accessible sites to our joint customers. A great part of our experience at NCCB2017 was meeting and interacting with so many of our customers that are leveraging our technology through our joint Kasasa relationship, which is a great example of how AudioEye accessibility solutions can be delivered through a 3rd party provider.
  5. Ongoing delivery – So many of the bankers that we spoke with were being reactive to the demand letter trend and working to play catch up. Though it is important to get your banking site to an accessible and preferably to a WCAG 2.0 AA standard, it is equally important that their site is maintained and kept at these levels. It wouldn’t be prudent or make much financial sense to settle a demand letter, incur the time and expense to make your site accessible, and not have a plan for ongoing maintenance. However, we spoke to numerous bankers that were taking this approach, thinking this was a one-time event. The AudioEye approach builds accessibility into the DNA of your site. While we can quickly assist you in catching up, more importantly, we keep you ahead of the topic by not only making your site accessible and compliant but also fully usable to a much larger portion of your customer base.
  6. Expertise – Far too many are relying on technologists or web developers to fix accessibility problems that have little to no expertise in accessibility. The legal risk and actions being taken against these banks are too significant to rely on someone who googles web accessibility or watches a YouTube video or two and then make some nominal alterations to your site, and declares it “accessible”. At AudioEye, all we do is accessibility and usability. In an efficient and focused manner, we focus on (and address) making certain your site achieves a WCAG 2.0 AA standard of accessibility and then work to assure and certify that it maintains that standard. Far too many bankers assured me they had the topic “fixed”, and, upon a cursory review of their site (conducted in person right there on the conference floor), we determined this was far from the case. AudioEye is here to provide you a free evaluation for you to review, and to confidently understand, where you stand. If you think you’re “all set”. have us take a look. It is free to you and will either provide you with the 3rd party assurance that you are, indeed, good to go or let you now that you may continue to assume risk due to your site’s lack of conformance to the internationally recognized standards.
  7. Certification – It’s one thing to make your site accessible, it is another to be assured. With the AudioEye accessibility certification your bank can clearly, and proudly, let your customers know that accessibility is important, you are knowledgeable of the topic, and you demonstrate your commitment to accessibility, inclusion, and usability.

The topic of digital accessibility and demand letters plaguing the banking community is not anything that will be going away anytime soon. If you have been served with one of these demand letters, we can help. If you’re looking to get ahead of the topic prior to being issued one of these demand letters, we can help. If you are looking for ways to be compliant, while at the same time getting ROI from your efforts by making your site more usable, for more of your customers, we can help. Making your site accessible and compliant does not need to be laborious, expensive, and time-consuming. Be certain there are those in the accessibility space that want to convince you that this is the reality, but, we at AudioEye, are here to tell you that technology is your friend, and technology, when applied appropriately, makes your accessibility efforts much easier than you might think.

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