The importance of integrating accessibility into statement design: DALBAR

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Introduction

Canadians with disabilities have a combined disposable income of about $20-25 billion per year. In light of this fact, organizations should consider the answer to the following question��Given a choice, would you intentionally cut this financially affluent potential client base out of your market simply because they didn�t have access to your products and services?�

Today�s blind and partially sighted consumer base is on the rise. Not only is it increasing in size, but also in prosperity, directly influencing how leading financial and service industry organizations communicate to this influential group of consumers. Providing accessible and user-friendly statements is becoming commonplace for the financial services industry.

Ensuring compliance to accessible design standards and criteria addresses Canada�s diverse abilities, ages, cultures and literacy skills. To resolve accessibility issues, organizations must first identify internal and external communication and infrastructure requirements. Secondly, they must go beyond conventional design methods to accommodate the blind and partially sighted population. Customer focused access must be taken into consideration to address the diversity of people’s abilities and become familiar with current legislation.

Understand your legal obligations

All consumers have the right to public information in a format they can access. This right is protected by various legislation addressing access to information. In deriving benefit from DALBAR�s expertise, clients are best positioned to achieve accessibility compliance and successful resolution in regards to accessible statement design.

Human Rights and Charter of Rights

Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensure equality of opportunity and freedom from discrimination in federal jurisdiction.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, AODA.

On June 13, 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA 2005) received Royal Assent and is now law. The purpose of the AODA 2005 is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

There are several standards that come into play under the AODA.

  • customer service
  • information and communications
  • transportation
  • built environment
  • employment

Important standards pertaining to accessible statements

Customer Service Standard

Ontario�s first accessibility standard, the Customer Service Standard, came into effect on January 1, 2008. The standard states what businesses and other organizations in Ontario must do to make the provision of their goods and services more accessible to people with disabilities.

Designated public sector organizations are required to comply with the Customer Service Standard by January 1, 2010 and can file their reports as of this date. These designated organizations will be required to file reports by the March 31, 2010 deadline.

The legal requirements of the accessibility standards for customer service are set out in Ontario Regulations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/regs/english/2007/elaws_src_regs_r07429_e.htm

Information and Communications Standard

Currently submitted to the Minister of Community and Social Services for consideration as law.

This proposed accessible Information and Communications Standard, currently submitted for ministerial approval, applies to various classes and size of public and private sector organizations that provide information and communications in the province of Ontario. Various organizations, based on classes and size, will have to comply in a staged approach by 2025. However, it is important to note that once law – within the first year, the standard requires that all organizations shall ensure the areas of policy, commitment, feedback, and web properties within the standard are in compliance within a year.

Compelling statistics that you need to know

Canadians are living longer, and as a result, are experiencing loss of physical and sensory ability. Canada�s aging population continues to require access to information, products and services that facilitate the ability to live, work, communicate and contribute.

As the population ages, it is reasonable to expect that the group of older individuals who are blind or have low vision will grow. With the growing numbers of seniors, the demand for large print for instance – one type of alternate format – can be expected to rise. It is estimated that by the year 2010, senior citizens are expected to make up about 60% of our North American population and own about 70% of our banking assets. Jeff N Marquis and Kerry J Harrison January 2006 – Special Business Needs Consultants.

In 2001, Statistics Canada identified 610,950 Canadians as having difficulty seeing ordinary newsprint or clearly seeing the face of someone from four metres. However, what is alarming is how this figure is expected to skyrocket over the next 20 years, as more and more Canadians reach their senior years. According to Statistics Canada, seniors will make up 21 per cent of the Canadian population alone by 2026 (one in five), compared to 13 per cent in 2000.

Based on an extrapolation of the 1991 census by Statistics Canada, the Status of Disabled Persons Secretariat and by Communications Services and Consulting of Toronto, there were 666,500 blind and low-vision Canadians and 2.17 million print-restricted Canadians. The provincial breakdown of this population demographic is as follows:

Accessibility

Dr. David K. Foot, professor of economics at the University of Toronto and co-author of the best selling book, Boom, Bust and Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift, says that Canada has about 20 years until an enormous crisis of blindness and low vision hits the baby boom generation as the members of that group reach their 70’s.

What is this financially influential group of consumers looking for in alternate formats? Access to banking services, information pertaining to investments and a wider access to accountants and financial planners providing customized services.

Do you recognize this scenario? Where would you turn?

A leading Canadian financial services company, with a diverse spectrum of clients across all provinces, produced a number of large print statements for its investment customers. Historically, they would enlarge the statements on a photocopier, trusting that this method was sufficient to meet the needs of its partially sighted clients. After receiving several complaints from investors regarding poor contrast and quality of the statements, rendering them essentially unreadable, they recognized a need for an accessibility review. Upon completion of an assessment review, they concluded from the review that the existing method of producing large print statements was not meeting the needs of partially sighted customers. The design did not adhere to the large print standards for the uniformity of font size and style, high contrast and layout. In addition, it was discovered that accessibility law existed and was enforced for their clients within the province of Ontario. Looking to find a solution and adhere to standards and legislative requirements, the company engaged industry experts to help them meet industry standards and to assist with the re-design of their large print statements. Upon a reassessment of the new design, the statement now meets regulatory compliance and the company has received positive feedback from existing customers. Moving forward, the company is well positioned to serve a diverse and lucrative customer base.

Conclusion

Providing alternate format statement information not only meets diverse information needs and regulatory compliance, but also:

  • Enhances brand image, creating a positive image with your customers
  • Reaches a wider audience, resulting in new business
  • Increases loyalty and customer retention; and
  • Sets an exemplary precedent to competitors

About DALBAR, Incorporated

North America�s leading financial-services research firm is committed to raising the standards of excellence in the financial services industry. With offices in the US, Canada and the U.K., DALBAR develops standards for, and provides research, ratings and rankings of intangible factors to the mutual fund, broker/dealer, discount brokerage, healthcare, life insurance and banking industries. They include investor behaviour, Internet services, customer satisfaction, service and sales quality, communications and ratings of financial and healthcare professionals. www.dalbarcanada.com .