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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets accessibility standards for people with disabilities. These standards govern a wide range of businesses and organizations and apply in many different settings, including online. Businesses and local and state governments with websites are required to make these websites accessible to people with disabilities. However, the ADA’s website compliance policy is not always clear, and it may not be obvious how to achieve ADA law firm website compliance for your firm. At Law Quill, our legal digital marketing professionals specialize in helping our clients optimize their websites in all forms, including ADA website compliance. Contact us today to learn more.
Why Is Website Accessibility Important?
While ADA website compliance may be a legal requirement for law firms and other types of businesses, there are several reasons why website accessibility is important. An accessible website allows all potential users, including those with disabilities, to have a strong user experience. All users should be able to easily navigate the website and find the information they need. With so many important tasks handled online, web accessibility is an indispensable part of making our world more inclusive and ensuring that no one is unjustly denied access to jobs, housing, voting, and other services.
Website Accessibility and Digital Marketing
In addition to providing a fair and equal website experience for all users, businesses are incentivized to make their websites more accessible for marketing reasons. A more accessible website is capable of reaching a larger customer base. For example, a law firm website without accessibility for the hearing or vision impaired could potentially lose out on clients from these groups.
Accessibility can also help websites improve their digital marketing presence in the form of search engine optimization (SEO), which is an indispensable component of a strong digital marketing strategy. SEO is a set of strategies designed to boost the search engine rankings of a website, which in turn can lead to more customers for the business. Some of the ways website accessibility and SEO work together include:
- Accessible websites have better user experiences, which is a key factor in Google search rankings
- Title tags allow people who use screen readers to more easily differentiate between multiple pages and are also critical for SEO
- Well-organized web content with good header structures is an SEO best practice and is more easily readable for users with cognitive impairments.
- Alt text is vital for users with screen readers and search engines look for alt text in both images and videos.
When Is ADA Compliance Required?
The ADA is designed to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against. This law has legal requirements for all types of public-facing businesses and government entities. When this law went into effect in 1992, it mainly applied to the physical locations of these businesses and entities. However, as the Internet has become universal, the ADA now requires compliance with websites for these businesses and government entities as well.
Businesses and organizations that meet any of the following criteria are required to comply with the ADA:
- Any public-facing business
- Private companies with at least 15 employees
- All government agencies – including local, county, state, and federal
- Non-profit organizations and charities with either at least 15 employees or that operate for the general public’s benefit
Law firms are among the many types of businesses that are required to be ADA-compliant, both at their offices and on their websites. You can learn more about ADA law firm website compliance by speaking with one of the digital marketing specialists at Law Quill.
What Are the ADA Requirements For Website Accessibility?
The ADA is intended to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to various facets of life, including both physical locations and information. Inaccessible websites can create barriers for people with disabilities. Since so many services are now primarily accessed online, the Department of Justice has made website access for the disabled one of its top priorities.
However, there is no concrete set of rules regarding ADA website compliance. The ADA generally requires governments and businesses to take measures that allow for equal communication for all groups. There should be no discrepancy between the access of someone without a disability versus someone with one. For law firm websites and other business websites, this means the website should be designed in a way that allows people with disabilities to access the same goods or services as all other website visitors.
What Are the Website Accessibility Standards?
Although the Department of Justice may not have formal regulations regarding website accessibility standards, they do hold websites to the same standards applied in physical venues. Many businesses across the world follow the WCAG standards, while the federal government of the United States adheres to the Section 508 standards for ensuring website accessibility.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) – a branch of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Individuals and organizations from across the globe have worked together to develop these standards, to create a universal worldwide standard for web content accessibility. The first set of guidelines, WCAG 1.0, was published in 1999 and has since been replaced by WCAG 2.0, which is currently the standard. However, the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group has announced plans to introduce WCAG 3.0 by the end of 2022.
There are 12 WCAG 2.0 guidelines, which are organized into four categories.
The user interface components and information of a website should be presented to all users in a way that they can easily perceive. The guidelines under this category include:
- Guideline 1.1 – Text alternatives should be provided for all non-text content so it can be converted into forms that people with disabilities can perceive, such as larger print, audible speech, braille, symbols, or more simple language.
- Guideline 1.2 – Alternatives should be provided for time-based media (e.g. media with an element of duration, such as a sound, performance, or slideshow).
- Guideline 1.3 – Content should be structured in a way that allows it to be presented in different ways without sacrificing information or structure – such as a conversion to a more simple layout.
- Guideline 1.4 – Webpages should be built in a way that makes it easy for easers to see and hear the content on the page.
The user interface components of a business website should be easily operable for users. The operable guidelines include:
- Guideline 2.1 – All functionality should be available with a keyboard
- Guideline 2.2 – The user should have sufficient time to read and interact with content
- Guideline 2.3 – The website should not be designed in a way that could cause seizures
- Guideline 2.4 – Users should be provided with assistance in navigation, finding content, and determining where they are on the website
The website’s information and user interface should be easy to understand:
- Guideline 3.1 – Text content should be easily readable and understandable.
- Guideline 3.2 – Web pages should appear and operate predictably.
- Guideline 3.3 – The website should help visitors avoid mistakes and correct them if they do happen.
Web content should be developed to be sufficiently robust, in that it can reliably be interpreted by a wide range of user types, including assistive technologies. Guideline 4.1 states that the website should maximize compatibility with both current and future users, including the assistive technologies used by people with disabilities.
How to Make a Law Firm Website ADA Compliant
Law firms should ensure that their websites are ADA compliant, meaning that people with various forms of disabilities have equal access to the information and user interfaces of the website. Following the WCAG standards is a good way to ensure the website is easily accessible, but putting these standards into practice can be difficult. This is why many law firms turn to digital marketing agencies for a variety of their digital marketing needs, including ADA compliance. At Law Quill, our team of dedicated law firm marketing professionals helps our clients with ADA compliance and all other types of digital marketing matters.
Here are some best practices for law firms and other businesses that are looking to make sure their websites are ADA compliant:
- Alt tags – Websites should include alt tags for all images, videos, and audio clips. These are used to help website visitors with disabilities read or hear alternative descriptions that they would otherwise not be able to consume due to their disability. For example, an alt tag for an image could play an audio description of the image for blind users.
- Text transcripts – All videos and audio on the webpage should have text transcripts for website visitors who are hearing impaired.
- Language identification – The website’s language should be identified in the header code, as this makes navigation easier for website visitors who use text readers.
- Alternatives for input errors – When a user with disabilities encounters input errors due to difficulty navigating the website, the site should automatically make suggestions that allow for easier navigation.
Learn More From Law Quill
A sound digital marketing strategy is mandatory in a variety of industries, including law. If your law firm’s website is not ADA-compliant, you may be at risk of fines and other legal consequences. In addition, an inaccessible website can be a marketing liability that prevents you from finding new clients. At Law Quill, our digital marketing professionals work with law firms to develop strong digital marketing strategies, including accessible websites. Contact us today to learn more about ADA law firm website compliance.