Building something for others is hard. You can’t rely on your intuitions as you would if building something for yourself. Human-Centered Design (HCD) is one framework modeled by our partner, IDEO.org that requires the end user’s perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process. If you don’t, you will likely fail.
So when was the last time you tested your software with a legally blind user? Never? Not your target audience? Well, 25% of today’s 20 year-olds will have a disability before they retire and there are a whopping 40 million individuals across the U.S. with some form of hearing, visual, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, or independent living disability. Eight million Americans alone are blind or have low vision.
Gone are the days when accessibility could be addressed by checking a box. It is now a necessary and critical investment in your company’s future success.
As part of the Financial Health Network’s commitment to inclusive and accessible design, this year’s Financial Solutions Lab challenge is explicitly seeking companies that are ready to champion the principle that accessible design is good design. For companies that join the Lab’s 2017 class, we will have dedicated resources available in coordination with Financial Solutions Lab founding partner JPMorgan Chase–such as the World Institute on Disability—to help teams understand and incorporate best practices of accessible design to improve the experience of their products for all users.
The opportunities for both fintech entrepreneurs and mainstream financial institutions to better serve the needs of people with disabilities are massive. According to the 2015 FDIC National Survey, an alarming 46% of households headed by people with disabilities are either un- or underbanked–compared to nearly 27% of the general population. At the same time, individuals with disabilities in the U.S. have a total income of more than $870 billion–and they often rely on a combination of inconsistent wages and public benefits for income, healthcare, food, and housing assistance.
One relatively new opportunity ripe for innovation is helping people with disabilities and their families take advantage of the ABLE Act, a tax-free savings account designed to ease the financial strains of living with a disability without impacting one’s eligibility for public benefits. For the first time in public policy, the ABLE Act recognizes the extra and significant costs of living or caring for a person with a disability. For more information, the ABLE Resource Center, founded and managed by The National Disability Institute, provides a number of resources to help accelerate the design, availability, and adoption of ABLE accounts.
More broadly, we’re thrilled to see a growing number of designers, advocates, and other collaborators creating new frameworks, tools, and resources to help entrepreneurs build with accessibility in mind from the start. One such champion is Jordan Dunn, a Senior Product Designer at WillowTree, who led a thought-provoking session at SXSW this year on improving mobile experiences for the visually impaired. Here are a few “thought starters” from his accessibility toolkit, which is free to download.
- Enlist the Help of Real Users. The visual impairment community is always eager to provide feedback and test new features. They want more apps available that are inclusive, and are willing to help people build them. Sites like AppleVis and Reddit are great places for recruiting.
- Clear Navigational Points and Exits. To create an optimal experience that can scale, ensure navigation points and exits (especially those that appear in pop-ups) are clear. Without clear exits, your users will become stuck in cycles and unable to move forward or navigate the app.
- Don’t Rely on Color to Relay Messaging. People with visual impairments and color blindness will not be able to see variances in color.
We’re firm believers that better accessibility results in better design, better code, better products, and better user experiences–and raising awareness of that is just the start. We hope to inspire the broader fintech ecosystem to make accessibility a priority, and will be actively working with experts in accessible design to ensure our next crop of Financial Solutions Lab-supported innovations are moving in the right direction.