A (lowest), AA (mid-range), and AAA (highest). Conformance
at higher levels indicates conformance at lower levels:
■ ■ ■ Level A consists of the minimum requirements essential for
a page to be considered accessible, such as all images, all
content is accessible via keyboard use, labels and instructions
accompany forms, screen readers can interpret the content,
and other criteria.
■ ■ ■ Level AA builds on Level A and further provides for a greater
degree of content accessibility. For example, this level of criteria
requires that text and background have a minimum level of
contrast, clear headings and labels are used to organize content,
navigation features are consistent throughout the website, which
makes it easier for users with disabilities to access information
with a greater ease than Level A.
■ ■ ■ Level AAA provides for enhanced features of Level A and AA
such as enhanced contrast ratios and also includes additional
requirements such as sign language translation for pre-recorded
videos (currently being used at many ATM machines), content
at a ninth grade reading level amongst other requirements, to
maximize the accessibility of content to the greatest number
of people with disabilities.
Level AAA is not the recommended requirement for a general
policy of compliance due to the challenges meeting all Level
AAA success criteria for some content. As such, the mid-range
of Level AA is the level businesses strive to achieve. Notably, the
DOJ has required companies to comply with the intermediate
standard, AA in its settlement agreements and consent orders.
Website accessibility should be a priority for all financial in-
stitutions despite the lack of clear direction from the courts or
the DOJ. The risk and uncertainty of legal disposition are high
as the trend toward ADA compliance continues to rise. As such,
financial institutions should consider developing and maintaining
an accessible website to minimize risk of ADA lawsuits as well as
potential fair lending violations.
Institutions should begin with reviewing the WCAG 2.0
AA guidelines ( www.w3.org/ TR/WCAG20/) to understand
the types of issues it addresses and determine if there might
be other website modifications that would improve the institution’s website accessibility for disabled individuals. Then,
run an accessibility scan to identify potential issues; there are
several free tools available on the web to perform such scans.
Next, consider developing a governance program that includes
policies, procedures and a risk assessment. Initial aspects may
include, for example:
■ ■ ■ Reader devices, electronic braille and connections made to
live persons to assist a vision-impaired person.
■ ■ ■ Embed transcripts and use closed captioning for hearing impaired persons.
■ ■ ■ Offer a telephone line that disabled persons may use to obtain
information that is otherwise available on the website.
■ ■ ■ Provide flexibility on the site to adjust the font size and/or type.
■ ■ ■ Reconsider standard fonts used on website such as a sans serif
font, which tends to be easier to read by both people and assistive technology.
■ ■ ■ Provide a uniform style sheet for webpages to ease navigation.
Next, move toward implementing an accessibility webpage
(and ultimately, website as appropriate), engaging appropriate
staff from the business units as well as the information technology
group in the development, implementation and maintenance of the
program and site. Ensure that the institution’s third party vendors
are also complying with the ADA requirements (as applicable),
including requirements incorporated in vendor agreements and
service level agreements.
Where the DOJ has withdrawn its proposal, financial institutions must ensure that someone is designated to monitor the court
and regulatory agencies’ decisions on ADA website compliance
matters. Additionally, institutions are encouraged to engage with
their state and federal regulators as well as legal counsel to understand and appropriately assess and address any applicable risk of
non-compliance. If any legal notice is received by the institution
regarding website accessibility, there should be a well-documented
process communicated to all staff to ensure it is forwarded to the
The Department of Justice published an ADA best practices
toolkit on the ADA website ( www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/toolkitmain.
htm) for state and local governments. However, the toolkit does
offer insight on website accessibility on issues and potential solutions when developing a compliant website. Chapter 5, in particular,
offers guidance, a checklist and an action plan that may be helpful.
Although the guidance recommends posting the action plan,
financial institutions should be cautious in doing so to avoid raising
concerns of “not yet compliant”. Instead, provide an appropriate
means and method by which disabled persons may report challenges in accessing information. ■
UPDATE: In June, W3C added 17 new
criteria (WCAG 2. 1) to fill in known gaps,
especially in the areas of mobile, cognitive
and low vision. For more information,