Ahead of European Accessibility Act deadline, UK report urges banks to embrace inclusive design


  • EAA
  • Finance
  • Banking
  • Legal Intelligence


  • United Kingdom
  • Italy
  • France
  • Spain

New UK report calls on banks to prioritize inclusive design:

A March 2024 report from The Women and Equalities Committee, commissioned by the UK, reveals that many businesses do not consider the needs of disabled consumers from the outset when designing products and services. Specifically, the report underscores the challenges disabled individuals face in managing financial tasks independently. It calls on the banking sector to prioritize inclusive design, ensuring that innovations or updates to existing services accommodate the needs of all users.

Why it matters:

As the European Accessibility Act (EAA) deadline approaches in June 2025, European financial institutions are still largely inaccessible for people with disabilities. Non-EU countries like the UK, Switzerland, and Norway intend to adopt similar standards, enhancing accessibility and facilitating smoother regional operations. If they don’t, they could miss out on significant economic contributions, with disabled households in the UK boasting a spending power of around £274 billion annually. 

The EAA, passed by the European Parliament and the Council aims to make digital products and services universally accessible. With a compliance deadline of June 2025, companies face penalties ranging from EUR 20,000 to 5% of annual turnover for non-compliance. 

Banking accessibility initiatives in the EU:

Italy has long been a pioneer in advocating for digital accessibility laws with regulations that predate the EAA. The financial magazine Azienda Banca revealed that many Italian banks have already launched accessibility projects. According to Giuseppe Conte, Head of Customer Experience and PMO of Banca Widiba, whoever is the first to offer truly accessible services will gain an enormous advantage in the customer experience. Accessibility is not just an issue linked to ESG, and can also have an impact on the bank’s reputation. These developments illustrate a growing recognition within the financial industry of the importance of inclusivity and the need to adapt to regulatory changes that promote accessibility for all.

France has notably heightened its commitment to accessibility in anticipation of the Olympics 2024, increasing fines for non-compliance to EUR 50,000. Italy has set even more severe penalties, with fines up to 5% of a company’s turnover, exceeding those of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Despite not incorporating specific legislation, Spain has demonstrated its stance on the issue by fining major banks like ING Bank and BBVA EUR 30,000 each for failing to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities in 2017.

The EAA for the financial services sector:

When establishing sanctions and fines, most countries use the size and financial capability of the company as criteria. That’s why The EAA presents both challenges and opportunities for the financial sector, known for its high turnover and substantial transaction volumes. This industry must undergo significant modifications to align with the EAA’s rigorous standards. Efforts will range from making ATMs accessible to ensuring all digital documents, including PDF files, are easy to use, and overhauling online checkout processes. The Act extends its reach to also include suppliers and technology vendors, who must comply or face the possibility of contract termination.

Banks and financial services must now meticulously organize and make accessible a broad spectrum of documents and content. This shift underscores the evolving expectations for digital platforms, and the need for a holistic approach to accessibility.

Looking forward:

This effort to create an inclusive financial environment is not without its challenges. A BBC report highlights the difficulties blind users encounter with inaccessible payment devices, underlining the immediate need for these reforms. In response to these challenges, some financial institutions are leading the way in digital accessibility. HSBC has pledged to become the most digitally accessible bank globally, launching a series of free training programs and making substantial investments in digital accessibility. Similarly, the French National Payment Methods Committee has issued a charter that underscores digital accessibility’s significance, aiming to prepare the financial sector for the impending EAA requirements.

This approach transforms the challenge of compliance into an opportunity for growth, innovation, and a stronger, more inclusive digital financial ecosystem. As the financial sector navigates the complexities of implementing new accessibility obligations, the focus extends beyond mere compliance. Ensuring that digital financial services are available and accessible to everyone will be a catalyst for innovation and driver of broader social inclusion.

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