You can imagine that technology should and could provide solutions for people with disabilities. Well, of course, that can only happen if people with disabilities are involved in designing the process from the start. I wonder if their lack of involvement is the reason many Fintech solutions fail? Since its launch and its place in the mainstream, fintech has been criticized. These complaints are due to inaccessibility and discrimination.
According to an article by Entrepreneur, there are 1.7 billion unbanked people worldwide, and households with disabilities are more likely to be unbanked than those without. Disaggregating this means they don’t have expense records, which reduces access to financial aid and loans. For some, it is easier to access or visit a bank, but it can be a daunting task for people with disabilities, which is why fintech is such an essential tool for many.
Fintech should, in essence, be able to provide convenience and the ability to personalize financial services through the use of assistive technologies for people with disabilities. It should help and not hinder in overcoming barriers to inclusion. With this in mind, Fintech companies have a responsibility to bridge the gap and provide easy access to financial services. But it must be functional and affordable for individuals and businesses alike.
To put into context the biggest challenges we see with Fintech, it’s just not accessible to everyone. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a fundamental issue when it comes to using certain Fintech solutions. AI is often seen as more objective than humans. In reality, AI algorithms make decisions based on human-annotated data, which may be biased and exclusive depending on the dataset that was used when setting up the model. Recent PMLR research on intersectional precision for machine learning highlights how important it is when using technology not to limit the data set and the importance of setting up a set of training data, which allows the technology to evolve. Technology adapts to the way it is used and develops new paths from what it learns. This leads to avoiding clichés and preventing anyone from using the technology. It is so easy to choose an already created product from the shelf, because it reduces time and effort. However, it can deny access to so many.
There are accessibility guidelines for websites and digital solutions mainly in developed countries such as Australia, Canada, United States and United Kingdom. The guidelines state that financial services firms can face lawsuits if a fintech product is not accessible – simple, structured and easy to navigate. But how do we make this law rather than guidelines?
Interesting Forbes contributor Anuj Nayar discussed some of the best predictions for Fintech in 2022 last year. A key driver for some of them is the need for further scrutiny, and regulation is a must.
Arup Kumar Chatterjee, finance expert and blogger on Asian development, spoke in a recent article about the global divide. He says: “There is a large disability gap in mobile phone ownership, where disabled people are less likely to own a mobile phone than non-disabled people. Places like Bangladesh have the largest gap, with 55% of people with disabilities not owning a mobile phone, and Pakistan has the smallest, at 11%. With the smartphone ownership gap exceeding the overall mobile phone ownership gap, they are more likely to experience a digital divide. Everyone is on a different path and has various obstacles to overcome to be on the same playing field, but not everyone has access to it.
Of course, there will always be bumps and things to iron out. I think we’re all over the idea of all the talk, we need more action. These mistakes and missteps inadvertently create barriers to accessibility for digital products, so let’s stop this. Fintech players need to commit to overcoming these barriers and simply implement changes to make them inclusive from the start. Some companies are, but not all, why?
Around the world, we can see advances with fintech companies in the United States like Purple, a mobile banking app for people with disabilities. It combines a tax-efficient bank account with a debit card linked to a financial platform using state-of-the-art algorithms. Thus, customers can not only make contactless, easy and secure payments with a smartphone, but also manage their wealth and retirement accounts.
Mastercard introduced the card accessible to the blind and visually impaired, this card has unique notches on the short side of the touch card, it allows the individual to determine if it is their credit card, debit card or prepaid. This is a sequel
their commitment to inclusiveness. Here is a short clip that explains the map. https://youtu.be/bi4HsgbmpEw
Another is WeBank, an enabler that best describes them as it has accessibility features on its app to ensure visually impaired citizens of the People’s Republic of China have easy access to banking services. The WeBank application integrates biometric authentication, face anti-spoofing, artificial intelligence-based voice synthesis and real-time image processing. Additionally, the application’s open-source development framework allows WeBank to share its experience with the industry to help improve accessibility. Again, by allowing this collaboration to be open with other organizations, we can learn from each other.
Fintech has an advantage over traditional banking, especially when it comes to direct access to users, especially financially disadvantaged people. We must ensure the involvement of people with disabilities in the design process as we tackle financial inclusion. With the support of governments and insisting on regulation, we could speed it up and not leave as much behind.