Exploring the accessibility of banking and finance systems for blind users
First Monday

Exploring the accessibility of banking and finance systems for blind users by Brian Wentz, Dung (June) Pham, and Kailee Tressler

With the widespread use of and increasing reliance on Web-based banking and financial systems by many consumers and businesses today, it is important to ensure that banking and financial systems provide equitable and full access for individuals who are blind. There is currently little publicly available research on the topic of blind users and accessible Web-based banking and financial systems, apart from anecdotal commentary and experiences. Recognizing this lack of concrete data and the critical need to ensure equitable access to these systems, we began an exploratory study to investigate the accessibility issues within banking and financial systems. The results of our survey comprise the first formal, peer-reviewed research that documents the state of accessibility problems on banking and finance systems and provides insights and future research suggestions that could improve the user experience of these systems for individuals who are blind.


Population background
Accessibility and screen readers
Cost and value of accessibility
Legal activity
Survey methods




Within the broader U.S. population, 87 percent of adults use the Internet (Pew Research Center, 2017) and 77 percent of adults have a smartphone (Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, 2016). Data from as far back as 2010 indicated that 80 percent of households with Internet access were conducting financial activities online (U.S. Banker, 2010), and 53 percent of current smartphone users with a bank account report using mobile banking (Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, 2016). These numbers are likely to continue to increase and are particularly relevant in an era when U.S. bankers are expecting an ongoing decline in the number of physical bank branches (Meara, 2014). There is also an increase in the number of banks that offer mobile banking apps along with Web site access (Crowe, et al., 2015). This increase in mobile app availability is, of course, a reaction to the growing number of consumers that are shifting towards mobile devices for many of their daily online activities. Common uses for mobile banking include retrieving account balances or recent transactions, transferring money between accounts, and receiving account-related alerts. At least 94 percent of mobile banking users check transactions and account balances on their mobile devices, 48 percent have deposited a check using their mobile device, and 65 percent have used their mobile phone for bill payments (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2016).

People who want to manage their bank accounts and/or their personal finances online have multiple options. First, they can use either a computer or a mobile device to access the Web site provided by their bank/financial institution. Many banks (especially technology-oriented ones like Chase, PNC, and Bank of America) also have mobile apps that allow customers to do the same types of transactions that they can do on their Web sites. Examples of these transactions include accessing e-bills, scheduling payments, transferring money, depositing checks, and checking account balances. Second, there is the option of using many personal finance mobile apps developed and managed by third-party developers. Apps such as Mint, Bill Guard, and Personal Capital are popular for their convenience and often provide useful tools such as expense-tracking, budgeting, and bill payment. However, to use these apps, people need to disclose their personal financial information, such as their social security number, bank account, or credit card account details.



Population background

There are an estimated one billion people worldwide with a type of mental, physical, or sensory limitation that could impact their ability to fully use technology (World Health Organization (WHO), 2016). Within the U.S., 19 percent of the population has a reported disability, and half of those report their disability as being severe (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). So, clearly, a large base of computer and mobile users now and in the future, are users with disabilities. As an example to fully understand those numbers, in the US the number of older adults is projected to comprise over one-fifth of the population by 2040 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Administration on Aging, 2016). Worldwide, it is estimated that older adults will outnumber all children under the age of 14 within less than 50 years (World Health Organization (WHO), 2012). The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that as the population ages, approximately 40 percent of those over 65 will likely to acquire a disability (Heidkamp, et al., 2012), and this population is very likely to be affected by low vision and blindness. Worldwide, an estimated 285 million people are blind or visually impaired (World Health Organization (WHO), 2014), and 14 million individuals in the U.S. age 12 or older are estimated to be blind or visually impaired (Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2015). While blind and low vision individuals comprise one subset of the overall population of people with disabilities, it is important to note that accessibility problems that affect blind users typically impact users with other disabilities, including many users with motor impairments (limited or no use of hands for pointing or typing), and some cognitive impairments.

People who are blind or low-vision cannot easily read paper billing statements or paper checks from banking accounts, without the help of assistive technology, some of which is itself very expensive and cost-prohibitive. Because of the default paper obstacle, there is a higher likelihood that individuals who are blind might be conducting (or desiring to conduct) a majority of their personal banking or other financial tasks with a computer or mobile device, compared to the general population. Some of this is related to transportation challenges and the persistent preference by many banks and financial institutions to use paper statements. While many individuals consider online financial management and transactions a convenience and preference, it is more likely a necessity for blind individuals. There is some research on the accessibility of banking and finance systems for people with cognitive disabilities (Erazo and Zimmermann, 2015), however, there is no published, peer-reviewed research about the usage of banking and financial Web sites/apps by blind individuals. The exploratory findings that are available (Holton, 2016) indicate that personal finance companies are failing to consistently follow the current standards for accessible interfaces. While there are anecdotal comments and assumptions on the state of banking and finance accessibility, anecdotal evidence is not sufficient justification for corporate or legislative motivation to improve the current state of accessibility. There is a need for this to be formally established through empirical research.



Accessibility and screen readers

The primary accessibility guidelines for Web pages and applications are developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and are known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG. The current version of WCAG is WCAG 2.0 and specifies 12 standards that fall under categories of Web content being perceivable, operable, understandable and robust (W3C, 2012). A few examples of accessible design principles from the WCAG are providing appropriate alternative text for non-text content, using alternatives for multimedia (including captions), ensuring that all functions of a Web-based system can work from a keyboard alone, providing users enough time to read and use content, and creating links that are clear from the link text (i.e., no “click here” links).

Screen readers are the primary method used by blind users to access Web sites and apps. Screen readers audibly read content to a user in a linear manner, and they are reliant on good and accessible interface design. Examples of desktop/laptop screen readers are VoiceOver on Macs and JAWS or WindowEyes on PCs. Android mobile devices provide the TalkBack screen reader, and iOS devices have a mobile version of the VoiceOver screen reader available. Screen readers are an essential part of the users’ experience for this population, but if Web sites and apps are not designed accessibly, the screen reader will not compensate for that inaccessibility.



Cost and value of accessibility

It is common for the expense of accessibility to be stated as the rationale for the lack of progress or improvements. However, when the market potential, cost savings, and ancillary benefits are evaluated, the justification for creating accessible banking and financial interfaces is clear (Brinck, 2005; Goetze and Rowland, 2013; SSB Bart Group, 2013; W3C, 2009; Wilton and Howell, 2007). Studying the potential use of online banking and financial tools for blind users can also point to future uses, products and improvements, which may be adopted by the general population at a later time. Historically, many products that have been highly-used and valued by the general population were originally developed as assistive technology, including the typewriter, record player, audiobook, and even primary aspects of text-to-speech and optical character recognition (Lazar, et al., 2015).



Legal activity

Current legal advice to banks strongly recommends the accessibility of online systems for business, litigation risk, and reputational damage reasons (Hansche and Chen, 2014). Further, since physical bank locations in the U.S. are categorized as places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is quite possible that the Web-based services for these banks (e.g., paying bills, depositing checks, transferring funds) may also be classified as a public accommodation. In 2014, there was a legal settlement involving the U.S. Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division) and the National Federation of the Blind, requiring H&R Block to make their Web site, online tax preparation software, and mobile apps accessible to blind people (National Federation of the Blind, 2014). Similar legal agreements took place relating to the Bank of America Web site and mobile app (Bank of America, 2013) and with the Charles Schwab brokerage Web site (Charles Schwab, 2012). There have even been lists of inaccessible bank Web sites compiled to encourage compliance prior to any litigation, in particular with the U.S. Department of Justice work underway in regards to revising and strengthening the ADA, Title III (Bureau of Internet Accessibility, 2014) and the proposed rulemaking regarding Web site accessibility (Briggs and Sass, 2016). It is certainly evident that there is increasing legal activity in this area.



Survey methods

The primary goal of this research project was to formally document and begin to qualitatively describe the accessibility barriers that exist on banking and finance systems. It was not anticipated that the accessibility problems of banking and finance Web sites/apps would be dramatically different from the types of accessibility problems that occur on other Web sites/apps (e.g., lacking or poor alternate text, poor labeling, etc.). We began this exploratory research with a Web-based survey of individuals who were self-reported as blind or visually impaired to collect initial, exploratory data relating to the usage patterns, experiences, frustrations, challenges, and opportunities of online personal banking and financial management. The survey was widely distributed via established connections to advocacy groups such as the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind. There is no central repository of all blind users, so anticipating a randomly-selected, statistically significant sample that might be available to other research is not possible. However, our goal was to obtain a sample size that is comparable to that of equivalent research of similar populations (Brady, et al., 2013; Lazar, et al., 2007).

Two different types of Web sites/apps were investigated: Web sites/apps offered by banks/financial institutions and finance Web sites/apps developed by third parties. The list of banks/financial institutions was selected based on information analyzed on forbes.com, bankrate.com, and usatoday.com about the popularity of the banks/financial institutions in the U.S. This was proxied by the size of the banks/financial institutions in terms of total assets and total deposits. In order to build the list of Web sites/apps developed by third-party developers, we examined many sources including Investopedia, Business Insider, and quora.com, and developed a list of more than 20 popular third-party mobile Web sites/apps. We then used additional information like the number of downloads and availability to have a final list of 10 Web sites/apps. In our survey we also provided the opportunity for respondents to discuss other Web sites/apps they use that might not have been on that final list.

The survey was constructed through an accessible, Web-based survey tool, and it contained conditional “logic” within the question structure, which meant that the participants could receive different questions. In addition, the number of questions they were asked was based on their answer to the previous question. For example, if they answered that they only used the Web sites/apps provided by their bank/financial institutions, not by a third-party developer, then they would see a list of banks/financial institutions in the next question, not a list of third-party developers. Another example is that they would not receive an opportunity to write an open-ended response about a problem if their answer indicated that they did not experience that particular problem.

The survey was also set up so that participants could leave and return to continue their survey at a later time. We conducted an initial pilot test of our Web-based survey with a blind user prior to releasing the survey. The accessibility of the survey was also manually inspected prior to this pilot test; however, the pilot test provided us with verification that our survey itself was indeed accessible. The survey went live in December 2015 and closed in February 2016. The details of the entire survey structure with all possible questions (bound by the conditional logic) are included in the Appendix and will be discussed in the following results as Q1, Q2, etc.




We received 320 responses to the survey, but many of those were incomplete (only a few questions answered) and 23 responses were duplicates. We filtered this down to 162 unique respondents who both reported that they did use banking and finance Web sites or apps and completed the survey, a relatively large sample size for this specific population. It was immediately evident from our survey responses that banking and finance systems are of importance and highly used by blind users.

Usage patterns and preferences

Just over 80 percent (131 out of 162) of the survey respondents reported using banking and finance Web sites or apps at least once per week, with a third of respondents reporting daily use of those systems (Q1). Our respondents reported an almost equivalent level of desktop/laptop versus mobile device/tablet use of banking/finance systems, with 87.7 percent (142 out of 162) using desktop/laptop computers and 85.8 percent (139 out of 162) accessing banking/finance systems from mobile devices/tablets (Q3). This indicates the broad use of banking and finance systems regardless of the physical location of the users. There was a slight preference for using a Web interface (47.8 percent, 77 out of 161) versus an app (35.4 percent; 57 out of 161) to access a banking/finance system (Q5).

There was, however, a stronger preference to use the official Web site or app of a bank/financial institution versus some type of a third-party or aggregator system (Mint is one example of an aggregator system), with 88.3 percent (143 out of 162) preferring the use of the official Web site or app (Q8). The rationale behind this preference could be related to brand/familiarity, trust/security, customer support expectations, or the lack of familiarity/experience with a third-party/aggregator system.

A majority of the survey respondents (63.6 percent, 103 out of 162) also reported that an accessibility problem had prevented them from accessing a banking/finance system. In addition, and unfortunately, our respondents also overwhelmingly reported (76.5 percent, 124 out of 162) asking someone else for help on a banking/finance system (Q10). The qualitative data further reflects the reasons for this — the basic accessibility of those systems. These findings have a connection to our later discussion about independence and the loss of control of one’s own data. In the words of one respondent (Q11):

“To set up a payment I had to click on things with a mouse and it couldn’t be done with the keyboard or JAWS cursor. I had to ask a sighted person for help. Mostly, if I can’t do it myself, I would simply not do it rather than ask for help.”

Our research also emphasized this point (Q4) by asking a question that revealed that the majority of the respondents (63.6 percent, 103 out of 162) prefer using a Web-based system versus communicating via phone/in person (17.9 percent; 29 out of 162).

A majority of respondents also reported that they do augment their personal banking and finance experience by using apps to identify currency (Q27, Q28), with 71 percent (115 out of 162) using apps such as KNFB Reader, EyeNote, LookTel, and MoneyReader. There were minimal problems described (Q29, Q30) with the use of those apps (23 percent reporting problems; 26 out of 115), and those problems were often related to older currency and low lighting.

Qualitative patterns and experiences

Respondents reported a number of problems (within both accessibility and usability contexts) that they have encountered during their experiences with banking and finance systems (Q13). Trouble with entering, editing or selecting information on the interface was an issue that was not always accessibility related. However, improper labeling, which is when an element on an interface is not given appropriate alternative or descriptive text (or a form field is not properly labeled), is an issue directly related to the inaccessible design of the environment. If something is not labeled properly, when a screen reader processes it, the user might not receive useful or accurate information.

Screen reader issues became a larger theme overall. A screen reader issue does not mean that the screen reader was the cause of the problem. Instead, it is the interface design that is working improperly with the screen reader. Some examples of feedback related to user experiences included (Q9d):

“Jaws was not recognizing the edit fields. The buttons were not labeled. Part of the time it would just read click here. But entering on it or using the space bar was ineffective.”

“... All of the buttons were unlabeled and it was impossible for me to navigate the app.”

“It would be helpful if it were easier to navigate from page to page. Like from account history to bill pay. Also, they are not fully accessible with Voice Over ... .”

“Buttons need to be labeled correctly. i.e., If a ssn is required, then, have it labeled ‘ssn’ and not ‘password edit’ ... .”

“pop-up menus such as those for selecting an account when transferring funds are not always read by a screen reader ... making it hard to select an account. The focus also jumps to different parts of the page when trying to select one of these menu options. No way to get beyond the initial page to send money to a person ... .”

[When using the app] “I was afraid that I was sending my Gas and Electric company the much higher amount I send to my land lord ... . I would like the ability to swipe ... and hear the information that the screen actually displays ... .”

Security and login problems

Security concerns are reported to be the primary reason for consumers who choose to not adopt mobile banking and payments (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2015). CAPTCHAs (an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”) are methods of attempting to enhance system security (a CAPTCHA is depicted in Figure 1 below). Many CAPTCHAs require that the Web site/app users input the letters of a distorted image or sound, sometimes with the addition of an obscured sequence of letters or digits that appear on the screen to make sure that the user of the system is an actual person/user and not malicious software. There are different implementations of this same concept. Some CAPTCHAs might ask a user to select all of the images that contain a picture of a palm tree, for example. Based on our survey data, unfortunately, CAPTCHAs end up preventing many actual users (76.2 percent; 32 out of 42) from easily accessing their data (Q20).


Sample screenshot of a CAPTCHA
Figure 1: Sample screenshot of a CAPTCHA.


The majority of the blind users that we surveyed who were certain that a CAPTCHA was used on one of their banking/finance systems (Q18) reported experiencing accessibility problems (Q20, Q21) due to CAPTCHAs on banking and finance systems, including the lack of audio CAPTCHA options, inaccessible buttons to activate audio CAPTCHAs, unusable audio CAPTCHAs, and no accessible option for intersectional disabilities (e.g., deaf-blind). Early CAPTCHAs only provided graphical options for security purposes and were designed in a manner that was inherently inaccessible to blind users. Many current CAPTCHAs provide an alternative, audio CAPTCHA option. While this can sometimes provide access, studies have shown that the audio CAPTCHAs are still fraught with inaccessibility and poor usability, despite emerging research in this area (Lazar, et al., 2012). Connecting security accessibility to personal independence and privacy is clearly an issue in the following response received in the survey:

“... It is never an option to ask for help when dealing with matters of such serious personal, financial security.”

Apart from the ongoing frustration of CAPTCHAs and the regularly reported news on technology security concerns, the blind users in our survey indicated that they do feel a sense of safety and security when they use banking and finance Web sites/apps, with 75.3 percent (122 out of 162) respondents ranking their perceived level of safety and security as being either a “4” or a “5” on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very secure. Respondents did note (41.4 percent, 67 out of 162) that they encounter problems with their passwords on banking and finance systems, such as knowing where to enter the password on the interface, knowing the number of characters to include in a new password, or problems resetting a password (Q17). The following responses illustrate user experiences with the login and security features:

“[E]ither the password box isn’t displayed at all, or if it is we can’t click on it to put the thing in.”

“... I don’t even try to use their wWb site because no matter what I do, type or copy and paste, the password never works. [T]his is after a site overhaul. I can log into the smart phone app, but not the Web site.”

“Credit union Web site shows verification image and phrase. The image does not have descriptive alt text ...”

[The CAPTCHAs] “were totally inaccessible to me as a totally blind consumer, and the audio versions were indistinguishable from random background noise.”

Bill payments and mobile deposits

Two increasingly popular features of mobile banking Web sites and apps are paying bills and depositing checks via a smartphone. This is more convenient, more time efficient, and more private for many users. Many of our respondents (54.3 percent; 88 out of 162) reported that they believe (or it was possible) that accessibility problems prevented them from conducting simple bill payments on Web sites or apps (Q22). The reasons for the uncertainty were things such as a lack of accessible confirmation for the payment, form fields with poor labeling, and other accessibility problems. Often those respondents recounted a necessity to call customer service for follow-up or needing to visit a bank/financial institution in person to verify or conduct the process (Q23). Some respondent comments included:

“There was not enough feedback on the pop-up menu to tell which account was selected to pay from.”

[I] “couldn’t select a date to post a payment or access the edit field to enter an amount ...”

“The payment was made impossible due to buttons on the page being graphical in nature. My screen reader was unable to tell which button was back, cancel, continue / confirm etc.”

Accessibility problems and perceived usability challenges prevent many blind users from utilizing the mobile deposit feature on their bank’s app (Q25, Q31). A sample mobile deposit capture window is illustrated by Figure 2 below.


Sample screenshot of a mobile deposit check capture view
Figure 2: Sample screenshot of a mobile deposit check capture view.


A common problem reported was mobile apps not clearly reporting whether the camera has adequately captured the entire check (75 percent of the 45 respondents who do use mobile deposit) and users being driven to rely on work-arounds or ask for sighted assistance (Q25, Q31). Sighted users rely on the visual verification that the check is within the camera window. Comments from the survey respondents included:

“I had a sighted person help me, I know no work around other than that.”

“I have not always been able to work around it. Sometimes the app just closes and there is no auditory reason on why it was denied.”

“There is not clear guidance if the check is completely visible.”

Suggestions for improvement

From a user experience perspective, the majority of respondents (61.1 percent; 99 out of 162) noted that there are design functionalities that would make the current system more useful (Q9c, Q9d). Our qualitative data further describe the comments regarding this desire, including better labeling, improved navigation, accessible security/logon (CAPTCHAs), and more usable mobile deposit capabilities. Examples from the qualitative data (Q9d, Q31) include:

“On the ... Web site, the billpay service is not accessible with JAWS ... If elements were correctly labeled, this would make navigating through the site accessible ...”

“Banking sites should ensure that all tool tips are properly labeled and all graphics have proper text description.”

“... pages which don’t time out or constantly refresh; more accessible checkboxes/radio buttons/pulldowns ...”

“[This system] has a lot of embedded dialogs and such which are challenging to use; please stick to standard Web forms, radio buttons, links ... etc. In addition, please be consistent in design by ensuring that there is a link from the main page to pay the bill (for credit cards) and to see activity ...”

“... Content can be found a lot easier with labeled elements and properly-structured headings and graphics.”

“All buttons need to be usefully labeled. All elements and images and banners need to be labeled and placed in a way that allow voiceover to be understandable ... Creating tables [with] headers will make reading long tables readable. Adding clear directions before any field, and making all error messages describe exactly what needs to be fixed.”

“Whenever a Web site or app is updated, there is always the worry that accessibility will be broken ...”

[I] “wish Webmasters would test their sites with a screen reader before making site changes public.”




It is clear that many of the problems described in our survey data could be avoided by developers following guidelines such as WCAG 2.0. The problems with headers, alternative text, clear labels, timed content, and navigation are all explicitly identified within these recognized, international guidelines. It is also true that achieving the highest levels of accessibility and usability requires not only strict conformance to guidelines but also testing and feedback with users and regularly scheduled evaluation.

Web and app accessibility for banking and finance is clearly far from where it should be, as is obvious by the high percentage of respondents noting accessibility problems. This research documents the previously anecdotal frustration and concern from blind users who are unable to use certain interfaces and features, and therefore regularly have to set aside their independence to ask for assistance. Many of these features are not only essential and convenient for personal use — they also can be used for business purposes. Consider the many robust and low-cost banking, accounting/bookkeeping, finance and tax preparation systems that are available via software, Web sites, and apps. These have provided a level of independence, control and cost-savings to many small business ventures, without the expense of paying an external entity to manage their bookkeeping (which could equate to hundreds (US$) per month). This is an expense that might unnecessarily have a negative impact on self-employed or entrepreneurial individuals who are blind.

Many vocational and rehabilitation service providers in the U.S. recommend self-employment or starting a business as an excellent option for a person with a disability (U.S. Department of Labor. Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2016), and employed individuals with a disability are more likely to be self-employed than individuals with no disability (BLS, 2015). While there may be many self-employment and entrepreneurship opportunities available, it is equally obvious that some type of Web or software-based banking and finance access is likely to be the most cost-effective way to manage the financial transactions of any self-employment or business endeavor. Survey respondents noted that they experience a lack of personal control when banking and finance systems lack accessibility (Q11). This has a definite connection to employment opportunities and personal financial management capabilities.

Another benefit of managing banking, finance, and accounting data in-house is, of course, the control of the privacy and security of business transactions and data. The potential loss of privacy and security of this data has a connection to independence and employment. Individuals are frequently compelled to relinquish privacy for security; however, this is often seen as a loss of independence and control (Madden, 2014). When there is a potential disparity in the accessibility of these systems for people with disabilities, it can also create an inequitable impact on privacy and security.

Strategic business opportunity

The business community needs to become more aware of the serious economic downside to disenfranchising this significant population of users. It is estimated that people with disabilities represent a buying power and market size equal to the population of China (Donovan, 2012). As noted previously, there are often unexpected benefits to the general user population from products that are designed and developed to be highly inclusive. If equality, litigation risk, and market opportunities are not enough to convince some organizations of the benefit of accessible interfaces, perhaps the appeal of the opportunity to expand and promote an organization’s direction on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is another. Adding accessibility to the overall CSR strategy has been recently shown to have a correlation to accessible banking interfaces in Europe (Martínez, et al., 2014). This is likely a strategic opportunity for banks and financial institutions in the U.S. wishing to pursue a positive social direction, and this is also one way to highlight an organization’s commitment to equity and inclusion. With the high use of technology today, any organization that sets a priority on social responsibility must not ignore Web site and mobile app accessibility as a critical part of their existing and future CSR plans.




Sometimes technology changes can be easier for organizations to adopt when they are effectively driven by business factors. In fact, some new technological applications in the banking and finance system could begin to address some of the issues related to accessibility and security. For example, one emerging area of security technology is voice biometrics, which analyzes individual voice arrays to authenticate the person. In other words, it combines various characteristics taken from a person’s voice, such as modulation, pitch, etc., and compares them with recorded voice samples taken earlier. The technology is very helpful for customers who often forget their passwords, PINs and answers to security questions. When it is combined with other types of accessible design, it might offer an alternative for some people who are blind or low vision. Furthermore, voice biometrics is considered to be safer than the traditional PIN-password mechanism (Kollewe, 2016). However, it is essential to note that voice biometrics is in itself currently not universally accessible to all users with all disabilities. It is more likely that emerging technology such as this example will strengthen existing methods of creating accessible banking and financial systems.

Even though many large banks and financial institutions, as well as third-party financial systems in the U.S. have been working to make their services accessible to people with disabilities, there is still much work to be done. Blind users find themselves restricted by access methods, and have problems with security and privacy issues (Q16, Q17, Q20, Q21, Q31). The accessibility of this type of Web-driven technology is also directly related to equality and human rights (Jaeger, 2015). Independence is a quality-of-life facet (Kitayama, et al., 2010) that is desired by individuals in many different cultures, and it is also something that individuals with disabilities frequently note as a priority, including the feedback obtained during this survey (Q11). Technology has the capability of enhancing and increasing independence in many areas of human life, and it has the potential to provide significant opportunities for independence for people with disabilities when it is designed with accessibility and usability as a priority. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also notes this need for personal independence as “respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons” (United Nations. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 2016).

One of our survey respondents noted (in Q31):

“I think it is crucial for financial institutions to be able to provide accessible platforms to those who are visually impaired. Personal finance is an important and private aspect of life that everyone needs access to, regardless of their disability. I wish it was easier to communicate with these institutions to be able to implement accessibility features into their mobile and online banking products.”

The results of our study suggest the need for ongoing and future research in the area of accessible banking and finance systems. Expert accessibility inspections should be used along with any other automated methods of evaluating the Web sites and systems banking/financial organizations and vendors. User testing should also be conducted to further analyze both accessibility and usability as well as to serve as an opportunity to enhance and improve system features. As new technology continues to emerge and the dynamics of system interaction continue to evolve, research should maintain a focus on these essential areas of life, employment, and business. End of article


About the authors

Brian Wentz is an associate professor of Management Information Systems at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, where he is frequently involved with applied research and service learning projects that focus on the implications that Web accessibility and usability can have on business, education, employment, public policy, and societal inclusion. For more than 12 years he has been involved in a variety of projects related to Web accessibility and usability for people with disabilities. Dr. Wentz received the 2013 Honorary Service award from the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind, and he has published over 25 refereed articles in journals, books, and conference proceedings.
E-mail: bwentz [at] ship [dot] edu

June Pham is an associate professor of Finance at Shippensburg University. He has taught a wide range of courses in finance including corporate finance, international finance, financial management, financial policies, money and banking, financial markets and institutions, and bank management. His research interests are corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, stock repurchase, corporate governance, and behavioral finance. Dr. Pham has published articles in many journals including the Journal of Accounting and Finance, and Managerial Finance. His research has been presented at over a dozen domestic and international conferences.
E-mail: dapham [at] ship [dot] edu

Kailee Tressler is an honors student and was an undergraduate research assistant in Management Information Systems at Shippensburg University for the 2015–2016 year. Her majors are Management Information Systems and Information Technology for Business Education. Her campus positions include: Co-Chair of the Honors Student Organization Activities Committee, and Vice President of the MIS Club.
E-mail: ktressler95 [at] gmail [dot] com



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Survey content:

1. I use banking and/or finance Web sites or apps:
    a. Daily
    b. Weekly
    c. Monthly
    d. Once or twice a year
    e. Not at all

2. I use banking and/or finance Web sites or apps for the following purpose (you may select more than one):
    a. Work
    b. Personal/Home
    c. Volunteer purposes

3. I access my banking and/or finance Web sites or apps from the following devices (you may select more than one):
    a. Desktop computer or laptop
    b. Tablet
    c. Mobile Phone (smart phone)

4. Would you prefer to talk to a bank via phone or in person versus using the Web site or app?
    a. Via phone or in-person
    b. Using the Web site or app
    c. No preference

5. When you have a choice between a banking and/or finance Web site or app, which do you choose?
    a. Web site
    b. App
    c. No preference

6. (Only if 5-b is selected) Did you have any difficulty with installing or configuring the app?
    a. Yes
    b. No
    c. I do not remember

7. (If yes) Please describe that problem?

8. When you have a choice, do you use the Web site or app provided by your bank or financial institution or a third party/aggregator app or Web site (such as Mint.com or Quicken)?
    a. Bank Web site or app
    b. Third party app or Web site
    c. Both
    d. No preference

9. (What appears here will be based on answer to #8):
    a. Please select the third party/aggregator banking and/or finance Web sites or apps that you have used (you may select more than one):
        i. Bill Guard
        ii. Expensify
        iii. Good Budget
        iv. iBank
        v. Mint
        vi. Money Wise
        vii. Personal Capital
        viii. Quicken
        ix. Spending Tracker
        x. You Need a Budget (YNAB)
        xi. Other (please specify)
    b. Please select the banking and/or finance Web sites or apps that you have used (you may select more than one):
        i. American Express
        ii. Bank of America
        iii. Capital One
        iv. Chase
        v. Citi Mobile
        vi. HSBC Mobile Banking
        vii. PNC Mobile
        viii. TD Bank
        ix. U.S. Bank
        x. Wells Fargo Mobile
        xi. Other (please specify)
    c. Are there any functionalities that would make that app or Web site more useful than in its current design? (this will be a logic based question tied to the products selected above)
        i. Yes
        ii. No
    d. (If yes) Please describe your thoughts on how these apps or Web sites could be made more useful (and please specify which Web site or app you are referring to in your response):

10. Have you ever had to ask someone for help when using a banking and/or finance Web site or app?
    a. Yes
    b. No

11. (If yes) Please describe why you needed help:

12. Have you ever experienced an accessibility problem that prevented you from accessing a banking and/or finance Web site or app?
    a. Yes
    b. No

13. (If yes) Please describe that problem: (feel free to describe more than one problem)

14. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being unsafe and 5 being very secure, please describe the level of safety/security you feel when you use banking and/or finance Web sites or apps:
    a. 1
    b. 2
    c. 3
    d. 4
    e. 5

15. Do you save your log in information on the banking and/or finance Web site or app so that you do not have to enter it in the future?
    a. Yes
    b. No

16. Have you ever experienced a problem with a password on a banking and/or finance Web site or app?
    a. Yes
    b. No

17. (If yes) Please describe that problem:

18. Do any of your banking and/or finance apps or Web sites use CAPTCHAs (security image or sound)?
    a. Yes
    b. No
    c. I am not sure

19. (Only if yes to #18) Are those CAPTCHAs audio or visual CAPTCHAs?
    a. Audio
    b. Visual
    c. Both
    d. I am not sure

20. (Only if yes to #18) Have you ever had any accessibility problems with CAPTCHAs on a banking and/or finance app or Web site?
    a. Yes
    b. No

21. (If yes) Please describe that problem:

22. Have you ever had a problem with making a bill payment because of the accessibility of a banking and/or finance Web site or app?
    a. Yes
    b. No

23. (If yes) Please describe that experience:

24. Do you use a mobile check deposit feature on your banking app?
    a. Yes
    b. No
    c. My bank does not offer this feature

25. (If yes) Have you ever had difficulty with knowing whether the camera is capturing the entire check?
    a. Yes
    b. No
    c. I am not sure

26. (If yes) Please describe that situation and if you were able to work around it:

27. Do you use any apps to identify money (such as the KNFB reader)?
    a. Yes
    b. No

28. (If yes) Please list the apps that you use to identify money:

29. (If yes to #26) Have you ever experienced a problem with using one of those apps?
    a. Yes
    b. No

30. (If yes) Please describe that problem:

31. If you have any other additional comments or suggestions regarding banking and/or finance app or Web site accessibility, please feel free to include them here:


Editorial history

Received 10 October 2016; revised 4 January 2017; accepted 12 February 2017.

Creative Commons License
This paper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Exploring the accessibility of banking and finance systems for blind users
by Brian Wentz, Dung (June) Pham, and Kailee Tressler.
First Monday, Volume 22, Number 3 - 6 March 2017
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v21i13.7036

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