Empowering inclusion: Accessible payments

by Karen Coe, Head of UK Sales, Giesecke and Devrient

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Disability has the potential to impact anyone in society. It can be visible or hidden, temporary, or permanent, and can be influenced by a number of factors. More than one billion people around the world have some level of disability, equating to roughly 15% of the global population. At the same time, the world is ageing as people live longer, and the number of people aged 60 and over will double to 2.1 billion by 2050.

It’s a significant section of society that may require accessible products and services in order to utilise the same opportunities as other citizens. In the payments industry, making this level of accessibility a reality is a top priority, but how exactly do organisations cater to a diverse society with a manifold range of needs?

A customer-centric approach

There needs to be an industry-wide effort among the players in the payments ecosystem to recognise the unique needs and challenges associated with citizens, because there is no one-size-fits-all strategy that works.

A customer-centric approach that considers the authentic experiences of individuals with disabilities can allow financial institutions to understand these nuances. Driven by technology, they can offer barrier-free payment experiences across digital and physical transactions and during the onboarding process to the benefit of all, including impaired and disabled community and the older demographic.

Payment card innovations for a better differentiation

Delving deeper into different transaction types, payment cards are often the modern-day conduit between banks and many customers. Used on a regular basis to complete payments, they build a bond among the two entities. Cards have become ubiquitous as a payment method worldwide, with almost 26 billion debit, credit and prepaid cards in global circulation in 2022. Last year, in the UK alone, there were 160 million debit and credit cards in issue.

However, for some people in society, the card issuance journey can be a difficult one to navigate, such as for those with sight impairments, for example. But banks and financial institutions can adopt practical implementations to assist with accessibility. One example is the implementation of QR-enabled audio content and guided card activation to streamline the initial onboarding process.

Once issued, cards with identification bumps can help users distinguish the difference between their cards, such as when they are holding a credit or debit form of payment. An accessibility notch, which is essentially a crescent-shaped cut-out at one end of a particular card, can further help customers to orient a card for insertion into an ATM or card reader.

When it comes to the readable information on a card, large, high-contrast fonts, as well as Braille characters, can help to make cards easier to read and use for when they go to make payments online or via the phone. Visually impaired users could also activate a listening service to hear transaction information and confirm or question amounts.

Keeping everyone included in the digital sphere

Physical and digital consumer journeys in payments are converging.  Digital solutions can be tailored to meet the accessibility needs of different citizens, and this can begin from as early as the onboarding phase and onto vital services.

Take the example of users seeking to open a new bank account. By identifying themselves via secure ID process and facial biometrics, they don’t need to present themselves at a physical branch to confirm their identity. This is a highly useful service for people who have mobility issues or live a significant distance from a branch.

Once users are fully signed up with their bank, there’s additional technologies that can enable easy access to digital services. Similar to physical cards, wallets can be customised to present a more accessible user interface design, with tailored layout, typography and colour contrast.

Biometric recognition can bring the ability for seamless transactions for people with disabilities, eliminating the need for them to remember passwords or PINs for their digital wallets and accounts, while keeping the same high standard of security.

The incentive for banks

The promotion of accessibility can lead to a plethora of benefits to banks. Biometric recognition can enhance the experience for visually impaired users, but it also makes mobile payments more convenient.

In increasing their market reach too, banks can build their brand as a socially responsible institution, helping to build trust and bolster customer loyalty. This level of innovative progress can allow financial institutions to stay ahead of the curve on compliance and regulatory matters, protecting them from any economic penalties and reputational damage, while demonstrating their commitment to societies.

An accessible future

The payments industry’s commitment to accessibility is not just a social responsibility, but embodies a social commitment, promoting co-creation, amplifying awareness, and rallying collective action to achieve an inclusive payment environment for all. By adopting a customer-centric approach, institutions can cater to the diverse needs of all citizens and ensure inclusivity.

Crucially, payment methods must be simple, convenient, and secure for all. Innovations in physical payment methods, such as accessible card designs, alongside digital advancements like biometric recognition, don’t just enhance the user experience, but also expand market reach, build brand trust and ensure compliance with regulatory standards. Through these integrations, banks and financial institutions can position themselves as socially responsible leaders in the financial world.

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