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Inclusive Financial Services - Global Trends in Accessibility Requirements

Posted by Nirmita Narasimhan at May 03, 2015 06:55 AM |
Inclusive Financial Services is a G3ict White Paper researched in cooperation with the Centre for Internet and Society. The research paper comprises a Foreword and Introduction, four chapters — Barriers to Access for Persons with Disabilities and Diverse Abilities, International Framework, Integrating Accessibility into the System, and State of Practice - Impact of the Convention on Inclusive Finance and Accessibility Efforts around the Globe.
Inclusive Financial Services - Global Trends in Accessibility Requirements

Cover page of Inclusive Financial Services published by G3ict in cooperation with CIS


Global demand for accessibility continues to grow, due in part to the strengthening voice worldwide of more than one billion people with disabilities, including the aging population, and important frameworks, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. From a private sector standpoint, the Convention represents a unique opportunity to ensure equal access to information while achieving global harmonization of standards and economies of scale. Understanding that technology is the great equalizer for underserved populations and having a clear roadmap towards inclusive information and communications technologies (ICT), rather than simple compliance strategies, will benefit everyone in every industry.

Specifically, the financial services sector is faced with the need to transform operations while providing truly exceptional customer experiences. Disruptive trends -- such as the aging population, influx of mobile devices and global regulations – are driving demand for more human-centric technology, and creating an opportunity for innovation that are proving to be differentiators for the institutions embracing them. Consumer demand to be in control of interactions and information is forcing those in financial services to reconsider what’s important to stay competitive. By offering an online experience through any device personalized to individual needs, preferences and abilities, organizations can ensure they are reaching the broadest base of the population, especially the “unbanked” and “underbanked,” to enhance interactions and improve sales opportunities.

Customers with lifelong disabilities or age-related impairments represent an increasingly large population among the biggest markets in the world such as OECD countries and China. Also, in many countries aging persons are the holders of a majority of the assets and highly dependent on insurance, retirement and banking services. Ensuring they can use the services they need without encountering accessibility barriers is a powerful way to earn their loyalty in a highly competitive environment.

IBM has a long tradition and culture of accessibility and understands the importance of improving the user experience, managing accessibility compliance, and creating an inclusive workplace environment. Consistent with our own experience, this report highlights the organizational and process adjustments needed to ensure everyone has equal access to timely information they need for work and life.

By creating a holistic strategy for embedding accessible technology across the entire enterprise - from processes to product development to people – organizations can reinvigorate individual channels and harmonize them across the bank. G3ict has written this timely publication for the financial services sector that provides a clear picture of the global forces at work that are transforming how employee- and client-facing applications, products and services are delivered to reach the broadest set of customers. The report also serves as a useful benchmarking source for governments and advocates based on its review of existing solutions already implemented around the world. We applaud G3ict for taking this first step on the road of advocating for greater accessibility of financial services in cooperation with stakeholders from around the world.

Ian Hurst, General Manager, Global Financial Services Sector, IBM Corporation
Frances W. West, Chief Accessibility Officer, IBM Corporation


Financial services play a necessary and important role in societies by enabling access to products, resources, and services, enabling savings and asset creation, and facilitating economic self-sufficiency. Access to financial services for all is a necessity in today’s world not simply at the community or household level, but at an individual level, to open doors to banking services, credit services, stocks and shares, insurance, and other markets. Access to and inclusion in financial services is crucial to poverty reduction and participation in economic prosperity and growth and development.

The increasing pervasiveness of technology in the delivery of financial services and the disruption of traditional channels of delivery through ‘FinTech’ (technology for financial service delivery) have generated new enthusiasm and newer ways for reaching out to persons who remain unbanked. Similarly, the increasing nature of services now available through technology has triggered growing demand among persons who remained marginalized from traditional paper-based banking services, as well as calls to ensure that they do not in turn create new barriers to access. Accompanying this growth spurt in technology there has also been an increasing recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities and the utmost importance of providing equal access to them to all services, including financial services.

Persons with disabilities and diverse abilities have been amongst those traditionally marginalized from the financial services sector through a mix of inaccessibility, presumptions of limited need and capacity to manage finances, and mindsets that did not view them as a profitable consumer base. This paradigm is now rapidly changing with growing evidence of their demand and need for access to services as well as the increasing income base of persons with disabilities around the world. Persons with disabilities and diverse abilities are demanding better and easier access to the entire range of financial services. Access to and inclusion in financial services is important to persons across the economic spectrum. And for persons with disabilities who live under the poverty line, it is essential that they are involved in financial inclusion initiatives and programs that will empower them and enable them to become financially independent.

A range of factors are serving as drivers to enhance the inclusion of persons with disabilities and diverse abilities through accessible financial services including demographics, attaining a competitive advantage and improving market share nationally and globally, Corporate Social Responsibility, regulations, legislation and compliance, enhancing business value, ensuring  and increasing an inclusive workplace for employees with disabilities, maximizing on technology advances, and ensuring diversity and inclusion for all.

This report offers an introduction and overview to the need for, and mechanisms to achieve accessibility in financial services:

  • Chapter 1 offers an understanding of the barriers posed by inaccessible financial services to persons with different disabilities.
  • Chapter 2 highlights the different international mandates and frameworks that are accelerating the promotion of financial inclusion for persons with disabilities.
  • Chapter 3 offers in-depth descriptions of the accessibility needs based on the type of technology in use, along with examples of effective practices and solutions to promote inclusion. It also offers a look at how different countries are striving to achieve the accessibility mandate.
  • Chapter 4 focuses on the state of practice of financial inclusion for persons with disabilities across countries and the implementation of the Convention’s requirements for ICT accessibility and financial inclusion. This chapter describes findings from two major studies undertaken by G3ict that paint a picture of the state of financial accessibility today and offer a glimpse into the financial sector’s commitment to incorporate accessibility into their work and services in the future.

Finally, in the Conclusions section, the report offers recommendations for relevant stakeholders to incorporate the principles of inclusion to drive accessibility through product design and delivery, policy and legal structures, and distribution channels and pathways.

Download the report