At Banks and Fund Firms, Access Is Too Often Denied, Blind and Deaf Investors Say

“Most, if not all, of customer service help desk personnel have not been trained in inclusion, digital equity or what tools the disability community uses to navigate digital platforms, and we have a dead end at the first point of entry,” Mr. Rizzi of My Blind Spot said.

Amber DeRosa, the manager of Vanguard’s accessibility office, said Vanguard’s phone associates were trained to answer questions a blind client might ask and how to handle a deaf customer’s video call. They can also connect the customer with Vanguard’s accessibility team. Vanguard’s first accessibility website went live at the end of May.

“We’re making sure that anything new that we develop going forward has accessibility built in from the beginning,” she said. Vanguard does not provide Braille statements to customers. But Ms. DeRosa said the company was making improvements to its websites, mobile apps and PDF account statements so that they were more compatible with screen readers.

Some blind Vanguard investors reported not being able to make an independent stock trade online and having to call customer service to complete the transaction, which typically carries a higher transaction fee. Ms. DeRosa said the company “would always waive any type of fees” resulting from accessibility problems.

Fidelity has about 200 retail locations nationwide, which are equipped with Video Relay Interpretation services “so that an American Sign Language interpreter can be summoned within a minute to assist,” said Fidelity’s customer accessibility lead, Hale Pulsifer. An interpreter can also be provided on site on request, he added.

Mr. Kramer said Fidelity was one of the last companies to accept video relay calls and that there were problems with 401(k) account call centers. A few months ago, one of his clients placed a video call and Fidelity refused to take it, he said. “They required him to go to a physical location to verify his identity before they would take his instructions over the phone.”

Mr. Pulsifer said Fidelity accepted video calls and had “the same identity verification process for every caller.” He added that Fidelity tried to ensure that its websites and apps were “optimized” for screen-only use and keyboard-only use, and that any videos contained closed captioning. Fidelity also provides large print, Braille and audio statements and tests its websites with the latest browsers and screen readers.

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