Tips To Improve Website Accessibility

How one California credit union worked with a blind member, his attorneys, and a technology provider to improve website usability.

When a 2015 website redesign for an Francisco Federal Credit Union ($1.1B, San Francisco, CA) rendered the site unusable for visually impaired members, the California cooperative worked with public interest lawyers to create a better online experience.

Mark Michaels, SVP and Chief Technology Officer, San Francisco FFCU

Our member helped us understand the problem and helped us work toward the right solution, says Mark Michaels, the credit union’s senior vice president and chief technology officer.

San Francisco FCU member Marco Salsiccia and potential member Scott Blanks filed suit when the credit union’s post-redesign online application form wouldn’t work with screen reader software. To remedy this, the credit union worked with the non-profit group Disability Rights Advocates to ensure its website, online banking services, and mobile apps were accessible to people who are blind or otherwise visually impaired.

Clearly contrasting text and background colors help bring the current San Francisco FCU website into compliance with accessibility standards.

Now, the credit union makes regular changes to ensure updated pages remain visible and accessible to all members.


San Francisco FCU
Data as of 03.31.17

HQ: San Francisco, CA
MEMBERS: 43,391
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 20.8%
ROA: 0.30%

This is important in keeping San Francisco FCU in line with the public accommodation requirements for websites outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Since the 2010 passage of the current website accessibility law, more than 240 lawsuits have been filed, according to a February 2017 article in the ABA Banking Journal. Today, slight changes ? such as incorporating sharp contrast between type and background color ? can make a significant difference in whether a member can use their credit union’s website.

We’re trying to take the lead on making sure our apps and websites are ADA compliant, Michaels says. We’re trying to be socially responsible and set a good example. It’d be nice if our industry could take the lead on this, too.

Click to see the formal settlement agreement between San Francisco FCU and Disability Rights Advocates.

6 Ways To Test Web Accessibility

Are your credit union’s websites up to snuff? Would you know if they weren’t? The updated Techniques and Failures section of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is 780 pages.

That’s a lot to keep track of. All of it is wonderful information created by some of the most knowledgeable accessibility folks available, says web accessibility consultant Karl Groves. Unfortunately, it presents a sort of barrier-to-entry for folks who just want to know what they need to know to be more accessible.

Thus, Groves offers this list of six tips that require no web development knowledge. Find abbreviated descriptions here; find full descriptions online.

  1. Unplug the mouse and/or turn off the trackpad. Can visitors do everything theye need to do using only the keyboard?
  2. Turn on the high contrast mode in Windows. How does the site look? High contrast is a crucial tool for the large number of low vision users.
  3. Turn off images. Without visual clues, does the content still make sense? Does the site still function?
  4. Check for captions and transcripts. Visual options and cues are necessary alternatives to audio features for hearing-impaired members.
  5. Click on label fields. Labels connect to forms, so do cursors direct into the right field? Do buttons or checkboxes select the adjacent option? Compliant sites need a one-to-one relationship between the label and what it controls.
  6. Turn off CSS. CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, are the preferred way to visually display page elements. When CSS is turned off, actionable elements such as function buttons still need to visible.

The U.S. Justice Department is not expected to issue formal guidelines for website accessibility until next year. Meanwhile, many organizations already are working to adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium, a move considered to hold legal muster with ADA compliance as it stands now.

Commonly referred to WCAG 2.0, the standards include making all functionality available from a keyboard and ensuring text content is readable and understandable. Another requirement is to make web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

To do all that, San Francisco FCU relies on its digital banking software supplier, Austin, TX-based Q2, whose executives say they’ve seen numerous demand letters sent to client credit unions and banks.

They tend to be somewhat extortive, says Q2 vice president of product design Anthony Ianniciello. They’re not saying, fix it and we’ll be good.’

Instead, according to Ianniciello, companies tend to reach a monetary settlement to avoid going to trial, but the websites remain largely unchanged.

Credit unions, though, don’t have to face litigation or make sweeping changes to ensure their websites are accessible.

Will Rodgers, Q2’s director of web services, suggests adjusting the main navigation bar at the top of the page to meet contrast ratio guidelines and changing text on buttons to black from white.

Administratively, San Francisco FCU has ceded some control of visual features on its website to Q2 to make site management easier without compromising on user experience or cost.

The old site and new site look similar, Rodgers says. We meet accessibility guidelines but most people don’t even notice. It’s the small minority that notice, the people using assistive technologies.

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March 21, 2018

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