Barclays Bank Case Study

From WAI-Engage: Web Accessibility Community Group

Accessibility at Barclays Bank


Many organisations are waking up to the fact that embracing accessibility leads to multiple benefits – reducing legal risks, strengthening brand presence, improving customer experience and colleague productivity. Establishing an organisation-wide accessibility strategy for identifying, anticipating and addressing the additional needs from customers and colleagues with impairments drives innovation in several ways – through tailored services, fostering an inclusive culture, creating new ways to communicate and consult with existing and potential customers. We want to leverage inclusive technology to enable and empower all people to bank, work and reach their full potential. The Barclays Accessibility team does this by supporting digital teams to embed accessibility into our services and culture through effective governance, partnering, training and tools. Establishing an enterprise-wide accessibility strategy, standards and programmes coupled with senior sponsorship helps support our publicly stated ambition of becoming the most accessible and inclusive FTSE company. ~ Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility, Barclays
Read on for more practical advice and examples from Barclays to demonstrate how accessibility drives innovation.

Accessibility drives innovation through:

1. Innovative services

Innovation is in the DNA of Barclays. Having been around for more than 300 years we've had to innovate to stay relevant and to continue to lead within Financial Services. In recent times this innovation has been hugely beneficial to customers with disabilities in ensuring that they can access our services and bank independently.

Some of these innovations have been specific to people with disabilities - for example our Talking Cash Machines (the first major roll out in the UK), High Visibility Debit Cards, re-designing Accessible online banking security tokens or virtual sign language interpreter services. These innovations change the way some of our customers bank, but they all lead to more independent lives for many of our customers. Many more of the innovations we've had in recent times, whilst not specifically designed for customers with disabilities, have a positive effect on their lives. For example Contactless payments, which Barclays led the way on in the UK, bPay- a wearable payment device and mobile banking- offering customers the opportunity to do a significant amount of their banking without needing to remember complex usernames and passwords.

We continue to see the positive benefits of innovation on accessibility and there's no end in sight for innovative services with technology such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning potentially driving more and more innovation within Financial Services.

Read more about Inclusive Customer Services on our Corporate Accessibility Portal

2. Innovative organisation mind set

At Barclays, accessibility is about more than just disability. It's about helping everyone to work, bank and live their lives regardless of their age, situation, abilities or circumstances. When we shift our thinking away from the minimum legal compliance to one focused on the commercial opportunity and the creative challenge that arises from building better experiences for everyone, we create a more sustainable, customer orientated approach to digital services. This requires a fundamental shift in the way we think about accessibility and in the culture around delivering digital services. To do this we've identified three main areas of focus to transform our culture based on the fundamental elements of culture change - Think, Feel and Act. Our approach to this culture change focuses on:

  • Inspiring Hearts (Feel) - ensuring our colleagues understand the impact of accessibility on everyone- not just people with disabilities. We use storytelling to bridge the gap that exists between our colleagues creating services and our customers using them.
  • Educating Heads (Think) - helping our colleagues understand the business case for accessibility and the commercial benefits we bring by investing in accessible and inclusive products and services
  • Enabling Hands (Act) - giving our colleagues the training, tools and processes to make accessibility easier to achieve, repeatable and consistent to deliver.

To help everyone understand our accessibility focused mind set, we've created a range of animations which help our colleagues to understand what accessibility is all about, who benefits and what the different types of impairments are. We've also shared these animations on our Accessible Banking YouTube playlist.

Read more about our approach to creating a culture of inclusion on the Business Disability Forum's blog

3. Diverse, engaged and creative colleagues

Our people make Barclays and so they should represent the communities we operate in - enabling us to use their insights to deliver excellent customer experiences. The best innovation happens when divergent thinking happens and the best way to create divergent thinking is by bringing together diverse minds. Within the accessibility agenda it's really important to ensure that the voices of disabled people are included in the organisation to help identify opportunities for innovation, to spot any issues early and help to build a culture focused on individuals.

What's interesting is how this approach then leads to virtuous circle where, by creating more accessible and inclusive products and services, leads to the organisation become more attractive to people with disabilities which then, of course, leads to a more diverse workforce helping to identify opportunities for innovation, making the organisation more attractive to diverse talent and so the circle continues.

Read more about our approach to creating an inclusive workplace on our Corporate Accessibility Portal

4. Corporate differentiator

We've already discussed the importance of the commercial driver for accessibility, but it's not something that should be glossed over. We shouldn't be shy about saying that an important reasons for many organisation is the fact that consumers who benefit from accessibility bring with them a largely untapped and high value market. In many ways, it's a positive way of looking at accessibility - we're not doing this for charity or because we feel 'bad' for disabled people, we're driven to do it because of the strong commercial argument. It also brings confidence that it's not something we're only doing in the short term because it looks good from a PR perspective - we're in it for the long run because this market is only going to get bigger. The spending power of people with disabilities and their households, often called the Purple Pound, is estimated to be worth £265 billion in the UK and over $1 trillion globally. That's not a market to be sniffed at. In the UK around 12 million people have a disability - that's 1 in 5 people. Globally it's over 1 billion people. That's not to mention those connected to these people who see how their loved ones are treated and make decisions about where to shop, who to bank with and so much more based on this. And because of the patchy landscape of accessibility across many sectors, people with disabilities are more likely to be loyal customers because the potential impact of moving to an inaccessible service is high. What this leads to is not only a loyal customer base, but one which is more likely to recommend, share their experiences and be vocal. In effect - a ready made group of advocates for your brands, whose only ask is you continue to deliver accessible experiences. Read more about the benefits to business on The Times Connected Families website

5. Essential for some, easier for all

"Without computers my life would have been miserable and my scientific career impossible." Stephen Hawking - acceptance speech for his Technology For Good Award in 2012

This quote from Stephen Hawking beautifully illustrates that for some people accessibility isn't a nice to have, it's essential for them to live and work. Throughout this case study we've talked about the wider benefits of accessibility and how accessible products are often easier for everyone to use, that's because when we think about the edge cases and build to support these, we create more inclusive products and services. Traditionally, accessibility standards haven't accounted for this wider benefit and have been very focused on ensuring accessible products are created rather than thinking about how inclusive products can evolve when we embed accessibility. Over the past few years we've watched the evolution of inclusive design and seen a great range of resources emerge including the Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit, the IBM Design Thinking toolkit and more recently The Paciello Group's Inclusive Design Principles. Adopting these principles, and in the case of The Paciello Groups principles creating our own posters to spread the message, we create a much more person-centric approach to delivering products and services for everyone.

A great example for us of this approach is our Mobile Banking App, the first to be accredited by accessibility consultants AbilityNet, but also designed to be a single app used by everyone regardless of their situation which embodies a number of the Inclusive Design Principles e.g. Offering a choice of ways to contact us and to bank, adding value by removing repeating security steps when you call through the app or adding value by providing biometric login using TouchID.

6. Inclusive communications and consultation

As great as we may think we are, we’re not experts in all types of disability and we don’t have all the answers on what improvements we could make or things we could do differently that would help. Therefore, building partnerships with a range of disability charities and accessibility experts is key here, as is regularly engaging with customers and colleagues with disabilities directly through surveys and social media via our @BarclaysAccess twitter account.

Likewise, launching new innovative customer services is fantastic, but how will customers with access needs know what extra help and support you offer? Equally important is how organisations communicate to these user groups – via the right channels, in the right tone and in the right way to notify them of accessibility support and services that may prove useful.

Many corporate clients and suppliers of Barclays are paying more interest and attention to accessibility. We’ve shared our accessibility journey and learns on our B2B Accessibility portal to help provide information and inspiration to other organisations on why accessibility matters and some best practices from us and other leading organisations.

Conversely, we still regularly speak to some organisations that try as we might, they still don’t grasp the importance of accessibility. When we probe a bit deeper, we find that there’s often a number of myths they have around the topic of accessibility and the disability community too. We try and shift attitudes through publishing resources like this Busting accessibility Myths YouTube video that you may find useful when influencing difficult stakeholders or the uninitiated!