Banks must consider their approach to web accessibility—the inclusive practice of ensuring that no barriers prevent users from interacting with content—as a key component of making their digital experiences available to all potential and existing customers. In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Corporate Insight will share a three-part blog series outlining select accessibility-focused best practices we have identified from banks in the following areas: publicly available assistance information, end-user experience operability, and pathways for requesting accessible card and statement formats.

According to a peer-reviewed report on blind users’ online banking experiences, three out of five respondents have faced an accessibility barrier when trying to use a financial website or app. 76% had to ask a sighted person for assistance. Both the quantitative and anecdotal evidence collected in the report underscore the need for robust support for customers with disabilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a foundation for making sites usable, but banks should strive to also incorporate settings that put customers in control of the non-digital aspects of their financial relationship. Giving account holders choices in how they receive documents, debit cards and communications lets them tailor their experience and helps ensure that customers with disabilities can access key services without assistance.

Provide alternative statement format request pathways

Banks generally rely on the WCAG for a roadmap to ensure they are offering inclusive digital experiences. Beyond online content, it is important for banks to consider how they make monthly statement PDFs and other important documents readily accessible for customers with visual disabilities. This includes supporting screen-reader compatibility for online documents and letting customers opt into receiving mailed Braille, large print or audio statements. While many banks highlight the availability of these alternative statement formats on their public site accessibility information pages, few provide clear pathways for accessing those formats directly from their authenticated sites. This approach meets legal compliance standards but may cause friction by requiring customers to search for information and call or visit branches to receive their needed format. Instead, offering accessible document format preferences online allows firms to better support the seven million people in the U.S. with blindness or other visual disabilities in independently managing their finances.

Firms can provide a seamless experience by incorporating statement format preference settings in their document centers⁠—a best web accessibility practice for banks. Account holders are already familiar with choosing between paperless and mailed statements, so banks can easily leverage this existing structure when providing document format options. USAA sets the gold standard here by providing a straightforward Document Delivery Preferences form that lets customers select from multiple formats. Additionally, the firm includes clear instructions and links to helpful FAQs.

This screenshot shows USAA's authenticated site document delivery preferences page, including the various options for users with disabilities.
USAA Authenticated Site Document Delivery Preferences Page
This screenshot shows USAA's FAQ on the various alternative formats available for users with disabilities
USAA Authenticated Site Document FAQs Page – Alternative Format Documents Section

Two other firms—Bank of America and Chase—support alternative statement formats directly within their document centers. Bank of America prompts customers to opt into screen reader-compatible formats for all documents, while Chase offers a choice between screen reader-compatible or standard PDFs for individual documents. While many third-party PDF readers may also be compatible with screen readers, it would benefit banks to confirm and highlight that in their document centers.

Offer accessible debit card designs

The industry-wide trend away from embossed card names and numbers in favor of flat designs has impacted consumers with visual disabilities by making it more difficult to tell cards apart. Although most major banks provide raised-line checks or Braille statements upon request, few note the availability of Braille or embossed debit cards or card sleeves in their accessibility information hubs. Discover and USAA provide Braille card options within their digital custom card design selection journeys for credit card holders, but neither makes the feature available for debit cards. Currently, most banks require customers to call in order to gain any information about accessible card options.

This screenshot shows different credit card designs available from Discover, including a Braille option
Discover Authenticated Site Credit Card Design Change Page – Braille Card Option

Later this year, Mastercard plans to launch debit, credit and prepaid cards with distinct notches that distinguish between card types and indicate which direction to insert cards into scanners. Mastercard chose the new tactile approach for these Touch Cards after its research team found that many people with low vision or blindness do not use Braille cards and instead rely on cutting pieces off their cards or adding stickers to identify them. When the Touch Cards become available, banks that issue Mastercards should widely promote them and provide a digital journey for ordering the cards.

This screenshot shows three mastercard credit cards with different notches cut into the side of the card to identify them by touch
Mastercard Touch Card Designs

Support a variety of communication methods, accompanied by preference settings

Accessibility advocate Meryl K. Evans, who is deaf, expressed communication barriers she has faced across many areas of life. Banks should review their communication accessibility—which means giving customers at least two communication method options—throughout their sites. When users need a live agent to resolve an inquiry on the authenticated site, banks ideally should support them through widely available instant messaging services in addition to call centers. Most firms do well here for customer-initiated communications by combining phone number lists with live chat capabilities, or at the very least a secure message center.

Banks should be mindful of the options they offer for firm-initiated communications and allow users to set preferences for specific methods. A useful approach can be offering phone call, text message and email options but only requiring users to choose one method. Many firms take this approach for multifactor authentication (MFA) within their secure logon processes, though a few limit users to only receiving MFA codes via text message. Generally, banks ask for the preferred communication method each time, which allows users to pick what works best for them in the moment. Post-login, the best firms also allow users to set preferences for other firm-initiated communications. The most popular form this takes is for alerts, but others go beyond that by letting users control how the firm reaches out to them for other scenarios. For example, Bank of America gives users an option to prioritize the order in which the firm contacts them for account servicing needs like possible fraud.

This screenshot shows Bank of America's options for setting communication preferences
Bank of America Authenticated Site Set Contact Priorities Lightbox

Meanwhile, Citi stands out for its pre- and post-login communication preference settings in every area listed above:

  • In addition to offering a ubiquitous link to live chat throughout the authenticated site, the firm’s contact page lists product-type-specific contact numbers and lets customers schedule in-person, phone and virtual appointments
  • Citi sends MFA codes over text or phone call plus gives customers the option to call the firm instead
    • The firm uniquely facilitates logins to the desktop site by letting customers scan a QR code with the Citi mobile app on their smartphones and authenticate via Face ID, fingerprint or six-digit PIN
  • A dedicated Communication Preferences page lets customers opt into an out of receiving calls, texts or both to each number listed on their profile


This screenshot shows Citi's QR code button and its MFA page


Overall, ensuring that all users are met with a fully inclusive experience is no easy feat, considering the multitude of diverse user needs makes it difficult to create or implement a single, established web accessibility model for banks. We hope that the recommendations outlined in this three-part blog series illuminated accessibility-focused best practices and innovations in select areas:

  1. Offer comprehensive information regarding both digital and in-person support options
  2. Include accessibility-specific contacts for fielding inquiries and accepting feedback
  3. Use conventional content organization methods to highlight key information
  4. Consolidate accessibility information in a readily available location
  5. Enable thorough keyboard-only navigation
  6. Equip multimedia with full display and operational controls
  7. Provide alternate statement format request pathways
  8. Offer accessible debit card designs
  9. Support a variety of communication methods, accompanied by preference settings

Corporate Insight’s customizable Digital Audit offers competitive benchmarking of additional end-user accessibility supports and other key attributes across firms’ authenticated sites. For general digital best practices and UX insights from across the financial services industry, check out our Insights section or the Bank subscription research service.