An elderly woman makes use of accessible payment options
#Payment Technology

More accessible payments for all

Technical Innovation
9 Mins.

In our diverse, modern society, there has never been greater awareness about the importance of accessibility and inclusivity. Whether in the workplace, in social environments, or in providing vital services such as banking and payments, accessibility is no longer an option – it is a fundamental right.

At its core, accessibility is about ensuring all people can live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, regardless of any physical or cognitive impairments they may have.1 It is about eliminating barriers, whether digital or physical, and ensuring all individuals have equal access to any information or service – especially those critical to living an independent life.

Society has witnessed a marked shift toward greater accessibility in the past decade. The introduction of new legislation, such as the European accessibility act (2019)1, and standards, such as the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG),2 have set the tone for how businesses, organizations, and wider society should approach accessibility.

These developments have, in part, been necessitated by increased digitalization and a growing social awareness of the importance of inclusivity. Add to this the fact of evolving demographics, in particular the challenges of an aging population, and the narrative quickly shifts from “Why is accessibility important?” to “How quickly can we adapt?”

So, what does this mean for banks?

Making payments accessible

“Accessibility in payments means ensuring that everyone, regardless of physical or cognitive abilities, socioeconomic background, or geographic location, can use financial services with ease and confidence,” says Kurt Schmid, Managing Director Digital Banking, Netcetera.

To cater to the varied needs of every customer, it’s important to recognize the diversity of the entire population – not just those with impairments. After all, the needs of an 18-year-old can be different from those of an octogenarian, just as the payment challenges faced by a customer with a visual impairment differ from those of a customer who uses a wheelchair.

However, simply grouping customers according to these labels is insufficient, because within these groups, customer needs will also vary. Instead, to achieve true accessibility, banks should ideally segment their customer groups according to the different stages of the payment journey – and design a range of products that address the different challenges customers may face at each stage. Thus, it has become critical for banks to ensure that their services and products are accessible for all, regardless of whether a person is disabled or not. To their credit, many banks have already made significant progress on this front.

Physical measures such as ramps, power-assisted doors, and elevators are some of the long-established ways in which bank branches improve accessibility for customers with physical impairments. Meanwhile, there are a number of Convego® card solutions with features such as embossed bumps, Braille, and embedded biometric security – a perfect example of how banks can achieve the notion of accessibility for all, while being especially helpful to individuals with visual or physical impairments.

But what about digital accessibility? Technology has transformed the way we bank and make payments, with innovative tools such as online banking and multifunctional digital wallets becoming an integral part of the banking experience. This shift has been further driven by the rise of neobanks and fintech companies, which have challenged traditional banking models and redefined the role of a bank in the modern world.

As with physical payments, it’s important for banks to ensure that digital products and solutions are as accessible as possible. There are a few things banks can consider to achieve this:

  • Diverse needs: Every user has their own needs and challenges when it comes to making payments. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach, so banks should ensure their portfolio of products meet their customers’ diverse demands.     
  • Mindset shift: Accessibility shouldn’t be treated as a box ticking or compliance matter. It should be at the forefront of design thinking and guide every decision.
  • Co-creation: When designing products and solutions, banks should adopt a “nothing about us, without us” ethos to ensure those who face barriers in the payment journey are involved in the process of removing these barriers.

As digital wallet adoption increases, it’s also important to ensure that the authentication process is easily accessible for all customers – without compromising on security. Until now, authentication measures, such as one-time passwords and third-party apps, have been cumbersome to use and have proven vulnerable to fraudulent attacks. However, new solutions such as the Convego AUTH-U – a passwordless biometric authentication based on the industry-wide FIDO standard – are a good example of how the industry is removing friction to enable an easy and secure digital payment experience.

The key is to incorporate accessibility from the start of the design process – a simple, but often neglected, design principle.

An elderly man pays with a bank card in a store

Accessible by design

“Accessibility is usually treated as an afterthought,” says Milan Šveřepa, director of Inclusion Europe, an association representing people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Often, it’s only once a product or technology has been fully developed, rules and procedures meticulously outlined, and the project completed, that it becomes apparent that some users with impairments cannot use it. “Then the tech people scramble to try and fix it, usually resulting in additional layers that complicate things for people with other kinds of disabilities,” Šveřepa adds.

Big tech companies are working hard to change this, and few companies embody the spirit of inclusivity and accessibility as well as Google. Central to the tech giant’s design principle is the notion that there is “no single way to define disability” and that “disabilities arise from a mismatch between a person’s capabilities and their environment."3

To help bridge this gap, Google not only has an entire team and website dedicated to promoting accessibility best practices, but it also opened an Accessibility Discovery Centre (ADC) in London in 2022.4 The center provides a space for Google engineers to conduct research and co-design products alongside members of the accessibility and disability communities. This ensures that all products are barrier-free and accessible for all users – an important lesson for all industries.

But accessibility isn’t just about creating easy-to-use products for customers – it’s also about cultivating an inclusive culture. To take an example from the payments industry, one UK-based fintech company conducted in-house workshops and training sessions to raise awareness among its employees about how customers use its app. This training utilized an “empathy lab,” which used arthritis simulation gloves and vision impairment glasses to put employees directly in the shoes of their users when testing products.5 This resulted in a more accessible app and is a perfect example of an inclusive culture driving accessible product innovation.

By adopting these principles in designing their digital services, banks can streamline the payment journey for all users and simultaneously position themselves as industry leaders in accessibility and inclusivity. This emphasis on accessibility will become increasingly crucial as digitalization continues its rapid development and a larger segment of the population lives with impairments.

“Accessibility in payments means ensuring that everyone, regardless of physical or cognitive abilities, socio­economic background, or geographic location, can use financial services with ease and confidence. No one should be left behind by the rapidly advancing digitization of the banking and payment sector.“
Kurt Schmid
Managing Director Digital Banking, Netcetera

Looking ahead

According to UN statistics, there will be a staggering 1.6 billion people aged 65 or over by 2050,6 while the number of people with vision loss among the overall population is predicted to rise to 55% globally by the same year.7 This changing demographic will pose fresh accessibility challenges for all industries, but for banks it will only emphasize the importance of providing a seamless payment experience to all customers.

“No one should be left behind by the rapidly advancing digitization of the banking and payment sector,” says Schmid. “Enabling accessible banking and payment experiences isn’t just about technology; it’s about fostering inclusivity, understanding diverse user needs, and building trust.”

The incentives for banks to promote accessibility are far-reaching. According to research conducted by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), companies that incorporate accessibility in their strategic planning are better equipped for future success. Here are some of the key benefits, adapted to banks:8

  • Driving innovation: Adopting accessibility principles drives innovation by encouraging banks to develop customer-centric products that benefit a wider audience. For example, biometric recognition not only makes it easier for visually impaired users to authenticate mobile payments – it also makes mobile payments more convenient for all users.
  • Enhancing brand: Demonstrating a genuine commitment to accessibility strengthens a bank’s reputation, to both customers and stakeholders, as a socially responsible institution. This builds trust and bolsters customer loyalty.
  • Increase market reach: By catering to the diverse needs of all customers and addressing the unique challenges of certain demographics, banks appeal to the widest possible audience.
  • Minimizing legal risk: Staying ahead of the curve on compliance and regulatory matters protects banks from economic penalties and reputational damage.

Each of these benefits can have a positive impact on how successful banks are in the future. They underline both the social and economic importance of embracing greater accessibility and inclusivity. And by doing so, banks create a more customer-centric banking experience for all.

A trusted partner

At G+D, we believe everyone should have access to secure and convenient payments. As a trusted partner, we are committed to supporting banks on their journey to making payments more inclusive and accessible – for all customers.

G+D launched the “More Accessible Payments Suite (MAP)” in 2022. Beyond offering physical and digital solutions, the MAP initiative embodies a call for co-creation and awareness, driving a collective mission for a barrier-free payment environment for all. Key areas of focus for the suite include:

  • Onboarding development: Prioritizing digital accessibility for those unable to visit physical branches, with initiatives such as remote onboarding solutions, QR-enabled audio content, and guided card activation processes.
  • Physical payment innovations: Focusing on more accessible and more inclusive card solutions, from notches, large print, and high color contrast, to tactile elements such as Braille for card differentiation.
  • Digital payment advancements: Spearheading customizable digital payment solutions tailored for demographics such as the elderly, enhancing their digital payment experience.
  • Authentication focus: Elevating authentication methods by adopting seamless biometric techniques in line with global standards, ensuring both user-friendly processes and heightened security.

This diverse range of solutions ensures that all customers, regardless of their age or any impairments, can enjoy a seamless payment experience.

Key takeaways

  1. Accessibility is no longer optional; it’s a fundamental right, and banks must ensure all customers can use their payment services.
  2. Recognizing and addressing the diverse needs of all customers, regardless of age or impairments, is essential for creating accessible payment solutions and creating a customer-centric banking experience for all.
  3. Prioritizing payment accessibility can have a positive impact on how successful banks are in the future, fostering innovation and strengthening brand image.
  1. European Accessibility Act, European Commission, 2019

  2. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, W3C, 2023

  3. Building for accessibility, Google, 2023

  4. The Accessibility Discovery Centre is open for collaboration, Google, 2022

  5. How fintech can boost access for the older generation, Raconteur, 2022

  6. Leaving No One Behind In An Ageing World, World Social Report, UN, 2023

  7. Magnitude and Projections: Projected Change in Vision Loss 2020 to 2050, Vision Atlas, 2020

  8. The Business Case for Digital Accessibility, W3C WAI, 2018

Published: 05/12/2023

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