The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) was created in June 2019 with the goal of eliminating barriers that impede the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities. Through the ACA, the Canadian government is implementing its mandate to introduce new accessibility legislation, ensuring a more level playing field for all.
Statistics Canada conducted a survey on disability and found that 22% of Canadians (6.2 million people) aged 15 years and over are living with at least one disability. It is more important than ever for banks and other large financial institutions to plan their compliance strategy, while seeking opportunities to enrich programs that embrace and advance accessibility throughout the organization. The right approach can yield measurable benefits by achieving regulatory compliance, good corporate citizenship, and competitive advantage in an underserved market segment.
Challenges for banks
From building facilities to IT systems and digital ecosystems, banks must identify barriers to accessibility and equality for their customers and employees to remediate areas of concern, including:
- Customer service: Many financial services organizations have already made accessibility a part of their planning, but still there are certain aspects of customer service that could be expanded. With more inclusive customer service, there's an opportunity to redefine the customer experience and increase demand for your products and services within this segment.
- Employment: In general, the banking industry in Canada has been more forward thinking in its hiring practices than many other global jurisdictions. This trend is expected to continue and evolve when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. Banks need to think about how they're going to hire across the employment spectrum, and ensure they have the proper accommodations for those employees.
- Digital footprint: It will be important for banks to ensure that their digital space is fully accessible, but at the same time, issues related to communication and security are a concern. This can be a difficult hurdle for banks to overcome on their own.
Interpreting and understanding the ACA can be time consuming and difficult, especially with so many departments and stakeholders having a role in understanding and supporting compliance with the act. Achieving compliance can be a significant effort, requiring extensive cross-departmental considerations for adoption. Additional effort and strategic alignment are also required if your organizations aspiration go beyond compliance, to embrace the effort, and make accessibility a competitive advantage.
Need for more innovation
In recent years, the banking industry has found inventive new ways to improve the customer experience. However, it is necessary for forward-thinking financial institutions to reimagine how they are interacting with customers in this specific segment, whether online (sign language and captioning), all the way to wheelchair accessibility to the counters. From online to in-person interactions, banks need to continuously evolve, innovate and enhance the accessibility environment.
A major problem from a digital perspective is not only how banks provide services, but how they are going to reach out to clients and understand their needs as well. Banks need to ensure flexible architectures and modern infrastructures that offer agility and change as accessibility needs are identified and evolve. If current IT systems and infrastructure cannot accommodate accessibility requirements identified by the business, is there a backup or remediation plan?
Creating a path forward
BDO understands the issues facing banks and can provide sound advice and pragmatic solutions—not only to comply with the ACA, but also to make accessibility and inclusiveness a pillar of the organization's culture.
BDO recognizes the positive impacts that persons with disabilities will have on all aspects of Canadian society. Recently BDO hired Max Brault, as Vice President of Management Consulting, who has a vision of “Turning lived experience into success” and moving Canada towards a barrier-free society by demonstrating to the world that Canadians with disabilities contribute to society and successful business ventures. As an architect in developing the ACA, Max brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in helping Canadian banks understand accessibility, interpret the ACA, and develop a roadmap that addresses each organizations unique goals and objectives for accessibility.
“Many large organizations don't know their statistics,” says Brault. “For example, they don't know how many people are asking for accommodations internally, they're often unaware of what kind of requests customers are making, and they may not know where their population of people with disabilities are located. Large financial institutions need insight and solutions to these types of challenges.”
Supporting the modernization of digital capabilities to increase service accessibility, reachability, inclusivity, and security is key to improving customer service. For employees, it's imperative to provide internal mechanisms to update hiring policies for people with disabilities. Also, consider what kind of technology employees will be using and look at everything from online and mobile banking capabilities, ATM machines to counter locations, then analyze how customers and employees are interacting with each other, and with the bank.
BDO's Accessibility Assessment approach
Our team of experts are able to help banks measure their progress against the ACA using a thorough understanding of relevant legislation, policies, processes, strong professional services, and a deep industry understanding of the requirements.
We can work with you and your team to develop a roadmap of where the bank needs to be in the next one to five years. Then, we can track progress as the bank makes those changes and provide advice on innovating while ensuring compliance in the process.
Our method includes seven key areas, which are Service design & delivery, Communications, Built environment, Transportation, Employment, Procurement, and Information & communication technologies.
Taking steps toward compliance and beyond
BDO supports an atmosphere that is better for people with disabilities. We understand all facets of the ACA, and how banks and financial institutions can embrace accessibility for competitive advantage. Our professionals are working to make the world a better place for Canadians with disabilities and we have the technological capability to assist our clients with these challenges.
Don't take risks when it comes meeting accessibility compliance measures—reach out to BDO for guidance and assistance.
Mike Gelesz, National Industry Leader, Banking & Financial Services, Consulting
Max Brault, Vice President, Management Consulting