By: Nancy Rapp Esq.
As many attorneys know, the internet is governed by ADA regulations, which necessitates that your website adhere to specific accessibility and functionality standards in order to fully serve all potential site visitors.
Specifically, web accessibility aims to facilitate access for individuals with diverse disabilities, such as mobility impairments, visual and hearing impairments, epilepsy, and cognitive impairments that can pose challenges when interacting with computers.
Disabled visitors to law firm websites might be reliant on earlier browser versions, entirely different browsers, voice browsers, or alternative operating systems. Utilizing these alternative technologies can result in difficulties when reading or understanding websites that do not comply with ADA standards. Accordingly, law firms have a responsibility to make sure that their website provides the best possible experience for these individuals.
Though accessibility for all should be a moral responsibility for law firms, there is also the threat of litigation for firms that do not meet the required standards. Litigation against non-compliant websites increased by 15% from 2020 to 2022, and the numbers continue to rise. With only 4% of websites estimated to be fully compliant, attorneys need to take the time to consider their website’s accessibility.
Understanding Website Accessibility Guidelines
Essentially ADA compliance guidelines certify that your website:
- Should be compatible with screen reading technology to assist visually impaired individuals. This entails providing alternative text descriptions for all images and forms, minimizing redundant content within pages, ensuring sufficient color contrast for readability, and including captions for all videos.
- Should offer multiple navigation options to enhance user experience. Users should be able to navigate the site using keyboard controls, access a site map or search functionality, encounter headings presented in a logical order, and encounter properly labeled links and buttons.
- Should be free from intrusive elements. The website should not contain rapidly flashing lights or colors that could be disruptive, and users should have the ability to pause or stop automatically played audio files or videos.
- Should adhere to up-to-date markup standards. Usage of “strong” tags instead of “bold” tags, removal of underlined text that is not linked, and elimination of major validation errors are necessary for compliance.
Law Firm ADA Website Compliance Best Practices
Addressing the above criteria, the following list is an outline of some of the key considerations to help ensure that you meet the requirements for ADA compliance.
- Images have alternate text that can be read by screen reader software.
- Redundant links on the same page are removed or minimized.
- The language of each page is identified in code.
- Video content includes captions.
- Links are provided to media players required to view content.
- Contrast ratio between the text and page backgrounds are at least 4.5-to-1.
- Text can be resized to 200% and the page can be zoomed in while still maintaining form.
- Forms have labels and legends that can be read by screen reader software.
- The keyboard can be used to navigate the site.
- Page titles clearly and succinctly describe page content.
- Headings are presented in proper order.
- Buttons and links are clearly and logically named.
- Menus are presented consistently regardless of the user’s location in the site.
- No strobe effects or rapidly flashing colors occur on the site.
- Automatically-played video and/or audio can be stopped.
- “b” and “i” tags are replaced by the less visually-oriented “strong” and “em.”
- Underlined text that does not provide a link is removed.
- There are no empty links or heading tags.
- There are no major validation errors.
- “Skip navigation” functionality is provided so keyboard users can quickly access content.
Be sure your website is not susceptible to potential litigation by making sure it meets the necessary accessibility standards and guidelines and provides equal access to all individuals, including those with disabilities.
The Next Steps for Law Firms
While law firms may understand the parameters for what’s required for ADA compliance, the next steps are often unclear.
Unfortunately, these tools can shine light on what needs to be adjusted, but don’t outline how to fix these issues.
As such, law firms must seek outside assistance by way of web developers trained in ADA compliance. Only with the assistance of these individuals can a firm ensure that the proper adjustments were put in place.
There are no authentic or fully regulated “certificates of compliance” that can be issued by these developers to provide confirmation that your developer completed the work properly. Instead, attorneys must properly research whom they hire.
Be sure to select a developer or agency that has a long-standing reputation; particularly within the legal community. Further, interview the developer to attain which accessibility standards and guidelines they adhere to.
As with most other internet and website needs of law firms, a responsive and informed team is required for ADA compliance work, and is your best safeguard against potential litigation.
Nancy Rapp is a legal marketing consultant and client relations manager with PaperStreet Web Design. With a law degree from Wake Forest University and a professional diploma from the Digital Marketing Institute, Nancy understands the marketing needs of attorneys and helps clients solve problems and identify new opportunities for growth