Creating Inclusive Fintech for Persons with Disabilities

Fintech, short for financial technology, offers a range of innovative solutions that use technology to improve financial services and make them easier and more accessible to all kinds of people all over the world. This is an ambitious goal in itself, and it has proven successful: according to the American Banking Association, 79% of customers say digital innovations in banking are making banking services more easily accessible.

It’s safe to say that from mobile banking to online payment platforms, fintech has significantly improved the financial landscape. However, can fintech be as useful for people with disabilities as it has been for an average person? And if this is possible, how can we make sure the financial solutions that we create cater to all individuals?

Inclusivity in fintech calls for adding features and designs that cater to the diverse needs of users, including persons with disabilities. This not only aligns with ethical principles but also opens up opportunities for a broader user base. In 2021, there were 1.7 billion unbanked people worldwide. Households with disabilities are more likely to be unbanked than those with no disabilities and are in greater need of fintech solutions. 

This article explores the vital aspects of creating a fintech ecosystem that is inclusive for persons with disabilities. From understanding various disabilities to implementing user-friendly interfaces, we dive into the key components necessary for creating inclusive financial technology.

Understanding disabilities in the context of fintech

People with disabilities have diverse needs, including visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments. Understanding these variations is fundamental to developing solutions that cater to everyone. 

Persons with disabilities encounter barriers such as inaccessible interfaces, complex navigation, and security concerns. Addressing these challenges is crucial for fostering an inclusive fintech environment.

Starting with designing an accessible interface

When designing an interface, adhere to accessibility standards such as WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) to guarantee that your app is accessible to users with disabilities.

Ensure compatibility with screen readers and other assistive technologies, such as screen magnifiers, speech recognition software, Braille displays, switch access devices, eye-tracking devices, and alternative keyboards and mice. 

Key accessibility features

Let’s look at the key features that your fintech app will have according to multiple guidelines.

  1. Compatibility with screen readers & assistive technologies

Implementing compatibility with screen readers and other assistive technologies ensures that individuals with impairments can comprehend information displayed on digital interfaces.

  1. Voice commands

Enabling voice commands facilitates hands-free navigation, benefiting users with motor impairments.

  1. Adjustable text sizes

Providing options to customize text sizes accommodates users with varying visual needs.

  1. Keyboard navigation

Ensuring that all functionalities are accessible and operable via keyboard commands is crucial for users who may have difficulty using a mouse.

  1. High contrast and color schemes

Offering high-contrast options and considering color schemes that are distinguishable by individuals with visual impairments helps improve readability and usability.

  1. Captioning and transcripts

Providing captions for videos (for example, instructions for how to use a financial app) and transcripts for audio content ensures that users with hearing impairments can access the information.

  1. Focus indicators

Indicating the focus state on interactive elements helps users navigate the interface, especially those relying on keyboard navigation.

  1. Readable fonts and line spacing

Choosing readable fonts and allowing users to adjust text spacing ensures a comfortable reading experience for individuals with visual or cognitive impairments.

  1. Forms and input assistance

Providing clear instructions, error messages, and validation cues in forms assists users with cognitive or learning disabilities. Ensuring that forms are accessible via keyboard is also crucial.

While some of these features fall under the “user-friendly” understanding of interfaces, it’s important to go beyond the intuitive design and align the interface with what might be needed in the worst-case scenarios.

Security considerations

Implementing robust security measures is crucial, and it should be done in a way that doesn’t create additional barriers for users with disabilities.

Provide a variety of authentication methods to accommodate different abilities, such as passwordless login, biometrics (fingerprint, facial recognition), or multi-factor authentication with multiple options (SMS, email, app authentication). Ensure that security instructions and prompts are clear, concise, and easy to understand, and most of all, avoid using technical language.

A widespread problem is inaccessible CAPTCHAs: if using CAPTCHAs for security purposes is unavoidable in your fintech app, ensure they are accessible. Provide alternatives for users with visual or cognitive impairments, such as audio CAPTCHAs or text-based alternatives.

Testing and gathering feedback 

Conducting thorough user testing, particularly with persons with disabilities, helps identify potential issues and ensures continuous improvement. Use focus groups, beta testing, and feedback widgets to gather feedback from users with disabilities. It might also help to directly involve persons with disabilities in development and ask them to contribute as much as possible. This will provide invaluable insights and ensure firsthand user experiences.

However, it’s also possible to go beyond the standard software development process, even if slightly adjusted, and do more. Namely, collaborating and partnering with various disability advocacy organizations will improve your technology and allow you to create an inclusive fintech ecosystem. Working with advocacy groups will give you a much deeper understanding of users’ needs and help in creating more tailored solutions while consulting with accessibility experts will provide you with valuable insights and guidance. 

Attending conferences, webinars, and events focused on accessibility might also help to give you new perspectives, and make sure the tool you create isn’t just accessible, but also enjoyable for people with disabilities. Engaging with the community won’t just allow you to gather giant amounts of feedback, ideas, and insights, but will also let you share information about your product and promote it indirectly.

Outstanding inclusive fintech platforms

While most fintech solutions strive to follow guidelines and make sure their apps are accessible to people with disabilities, some went further. 

Kasikornbank’s mobile application (Thailand) is designed to assist individuals with visual impairments and the elderly with managing financial transactions on their smartphones. Through the use of touch screens, voice commands, and vibration systems, users can perform transactions without the need to visually engage with the screen. The app employs intuitive finger movements and non-location-based interface technology, providing multi-sensory feedback to guide users seamlessly through each step of the transaction process.

WeBank, a product of Tencent, has introduced accessibility features in its application to facilitate convenient access to banking services for visually impaired people in China. The WeBank app incorporates biometric authentication, face anti-spoofing technology, artificial intelligence-driven speech synthesis, and real-time image processing. Furthermore, the app’s open-source development framework enables WeBank to share its insights with the broader industry, contributing to the enhancement of accessibility across financial services.

Emerging technologies: what else can you do?

Emerging technologies in fintech accessibility for people with disabilities continue to evolve, driven by advancements in inclusive design and technological innovation. While not yet widely popular, they can be the reason your fintech solution stands out and attracts new user bases.

  • Natural Language Processing

Enhanced voice recognition technologies enable users to interact with fintech platforms using natural language. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with mobility or dexterity challenges.

  • Gesture-based interfaces

Gesture-based interfaces use motion sensors and cameras to interpret users’ gestures as commands. This technology can provide an alternative input method for individuals with limited physical mobility.

  • Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI)

BCI technology allows users to control devices and applications using brain signals. While still in the early stages, BCIs have the potential to offer a direct interface for individuals with severe motor disabilities.

  • Eye-tracking technology

Eye-tracking devices help users to control and navigate fintech interfaces by tracking eye movements. This technology is beneficial for individuals with mobility impairments who can use eye movements as an input method.

  • Haptic Feedback Systems

Haptic feedback enhances the user experience by providing tactile sensations in response to interactions. Fintech platforms can use haptic feedback to convey information to users with visual or hearing impairments.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) for personalization

AI algorithms can analyze user behavior and preferences, providing personalized interfaces tailored to individual needs. This is especially helpful for users with cognitive disabilities or those who require specific adjustments in the user interface.

  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR and VR technologies can create immersive and interactive experiences, aiding individuals with visual impairments in understanding complex financial data through spatial representation and audio cues.

Final words

The fintech industry must prioritize inclusivity, ensuring that technological advancements benefit everyone, regardless of their abilities. By embracing accessibility, not only does the industry meet regulatory standards, but it also taps into a diverse market and contributes to a more equitable financial ecosystem.

Continued collaboration with advocacy groups, user testing, and staying informed about evolving standards are crucial. The positive impact on users’ lives makes the quest for inclusivity a worthwhile effort. Let’s make inclusivity an inherent characteristic of fintech progress, creating a future where accessibility is not just a feature but a fundamental aspect of innovation.

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