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Financial Inclusion in the Southeast Region

[Language: English | Español]

The Southeast ADA Center

We are a project of the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, is the Southeast’s resource center on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Center serves Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. More than eight million individuals with disabilities call the Southeast Region home.

Our Purpose

  • Provide accurate ADA information by answering ADA questions by phone and email;
  • Conduct ADA training for employers, businesses, government agencies, and people with disabilities;
  • Distribute ADA publications; and
  • Conduct research to reduce and eliminate barriers to employment and economic self-sufficiency and to increase the civic and social participation of Americans with disabilities.

Financial Research Opportunities Group (FROG)

As we engage in research focusing on financial inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities, we invite you to collaborate with us.

  • The work we do will be guided by a Financial Research Opportunities Group (FROG). The FROG is composed of people who have various disabilities, people who are aging, financial institutions, and people representing underserved populations.
  • Expertise is critical to ensuring our work reflects the region’s populations and needs and stays relevant to the maximum extent possible.
  • As we outline below, we have an ambitious plan of work to address the challenges in our region and hope to work together across all aspects. Over the next two years, we plan to focus on Phase One of Study A (see below - The Plan).

The Challenge

  • Poverty rates for people with disabilities across all eight states in the Southeast region are, on average, twice that (31%) of people without disabilities.
  • Three of the Southeast region’s states are among the top five unbanked states in America (Mississippi at #1, Georgia at #3, and Kentucky at #5).
  • Accessibility barriers at financial institutions persist, such as a lack of “Talking ATMs” or other mechanisms of alternative formats and effective communications, architectural barriers with physical locations, virtual barriers to online services, and more.

The Opportunity

  • Passage of the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act, 2014) established "ABLE Accounts," savings accounts that have tax advantages and which do not count against the account holder when applying for governmental benefits programs.
  • As states implement ABLE Accounts, financial institutions will be critical partners in providing services to people with disabilities who choose to open such accounts and receive financial advice regarding their investment strategies and withdrawals. As a result, banking services, more than ever, must be accessible in all aspects of customer service.

The Plan

The Southeast ADA Center will:

  • conduct new research examining the accessibility of financial services, at physical and online sites, for people with disabilities.
  • collaborate with individuals with disabilities, banks and credit unions to gain a better understanding of gaps in accessibility.

Three studies will examine financial accessibility:

  • (Study A) objectively measure and improve financial inclusion by creating our own assessment tools and training courses;
  • (Study B) subjectively understand financial inclusion by interviewing stakeholders;
  • (Study C) contextually understand financial inclusion by examining geographic locations of services.

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