The Growing Importance of ADA Compliance for Accessible Investment Marketing Communications

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Investment Marketing ADA Compliance

This is a guest post by Jen Goulden, M.A., EDP, UEB Technical Accessibility Compliance Specialist at Crawford Technologies.


If you’re in the field of investment marketing operations or communications, you have already heard of document accessibility and ADA compliance. Accessibility is about conformance to a standard such as WCAG 2.0/2.1 or PDF/UA. So, what exactly is meant by the term ADA compliance, and what is the Section 508 ICT Refresh?

What is an ADA Compliant PDF or Website?

In our increasingly digital society, it’s more important than ever for investment companies to consider how their customer communications can be accessed by people with disabilities. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantees equal opportunity for persons with disabilities to participate in “the mainstream of American life”. This means that people with disabilities must have the same opportunities as everyone else to seek employment, purchase goods and services, and participate in government programs.

It goes without saying that much has changed with regard to customer communications since the ADA became law. The Internet, Smartphones, and electronic document formats have revolutionized the way we access our personal and confidential information. In order for a website or document to be considered ADA compliant, it must be designed to support assistive technology such as screen readers, braille displays, and magnification software. More specifically, the ADA requires websites and PDF documents to comply with the WCAG 2.0/2.1 guidelines. For more information on the ADA, visit https://www.ada.gov/ada_intro.htm.

What Is Section 508?

Section 508 is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 passed by Congress in 1998. It applies to government agencies and companies receiving government funding. Section 508 stipulates that when U.S. Federal government agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use Electronic and Information Technology (EIT), federal employees and individuals with disabilities have the same access and usage rights as persons without disabilities. It covers all EIT, including software, websites, web apps, and hardware.

Over time, Section 508 has been adopted by a growing number of non-covered entities, including many large investment management firms. Many are considering these requirements when evaluating new technologies, like content automation, that help firms produce accessible factsheets, commentaries, and website content at scale. Investment firms can’t risk implementing technology that doesn’t ensure marketing materials meet ADA compliance parameters.

What Is The ICT Refresh?

This long-awaited refresh covers both Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. On January 18th, 2018, the ICT Refresh came into effect for anyone doing business with or receiving funding from the U.S. Federal Government. The refresh addresses the dramatic changes to Information and Communications Technologies (such as electronic documents and websites) and the increasing prevalence of mobile content. Smartphones and mobile websites did not even exist when the last refresh was completed. Yet, these are now critical components of both accessibility and legal compliance.

The U.S. government is the largest procurer of goods globally, and it employs many individuals with visual, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. Anyone wishing to do business with the U.S. government will need to ensure that internal and public-facing content is accessible. Note that existing documents and websites that predate January 18th, 2018, are grandfathered under the ICT Refresh. These items are only in scope when changes are made or if they are accessed regularly. The minimum standard in order to meet the Section 508 criteria is WCAG 2.0 Level AA. With regard to Accessible PDF, organizations may choose to follow the PDF/UA normative standard or the HHS guidelines.

Legal action in the accessibility space is on the rise and can lead to significant fines for non-compliance. That being said, providing accessible content is more than a regulatory requirement. It also helps ensure that your investment management firm offers the best possible customer experience.

Additional Resources


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Emilie is Chief Marketing Officer at Synthesis. She brings over 15 years of integrated sales and marketing experience working with financial services, SaaS, and health and wellness companies. Her passion is architecting holistic marketing strategies that align with each business function to achieve client experience, employee advocacy, and revenue goals. When she isn't marketing, you can find her rehabbing her home in the Chicago suburbs, practicing yoga, or spending time with her family.


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