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Online banking for all!

Bankers behind online rules for accessibility

The BBA (British Bankers Association) has joined the fray to make the web more accessible, today announcing its guidelines for designing websites that are available to all.

Guidelines from the BBA dictate that banking sites should be intuitive and easy to use for people with disabilities.

The move follows last week's recommendations on how to open up the internet to disabled people by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), and campaigns by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).

The Accessible e-banking guidelines have been produced in association with the RNIB and cover such issues as the layout of websites, fonts, colours and styles.

Section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which requires service providers to make information about their services accessible to the disabled, is vague enough to allow firms the de facto discretion to apply equality of online access to content.

Banks have been trying to get us to do our banking online for ages, shutting high street branches in favour of telephone and email communications. For people with sight problems, using a cashpoint machine could perhaps be one of the more difficult things about banking.

"For those disabled people who find access to bank branches and/or telephone banking impossible, accessible internet banking can be a lifeline to a basic service," said Maria Eagle, minister for disabled people.

"We hope this effort will result in the development of online banking systems that everyone can use with ease, including people with disabilities," added Kevin Carey, vice chairman of the RNIB.

It may be a long time before visually impaired people have access to the same internet services as people without such difficulties, but it is hoped that recommendations like this will push services forward.

The DTI's 'e-envoy' Andrew Pinder expressed his support for the scheme and added: "For visually impaired and other disabled people, advances in information and communication technologies provide a stimulating platform for them to increase their ability to move within and communicate with the world. The recommendations provide practical guidance that will be of use to all managers of [information technology]."

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