ADA compliance is something that all businesses and websites must take seriously—including law firms.
Failure to comply with ADA regulations could sincerely damage the reputation of your firm. Furthermore, you could be limiting yourself in terms of potential prospects. So in addition to the moral obligation to follow ADA compliance on your website, there’s also the financial motive.
This begs the question—is your law firm website ADA compliant? If you haven’t taken active steps to ensure compliance, the answer is likely no.
Fortunately for you, I’ve put together this simple playbook to fix your law firm’s website and ensure that it meets ADA standards.
What is ADA Compliance?
Let’s start with the basics. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to accommodate people with disabilities. The Act is typically associated with physical accommodations, such as wheelchair access, Braille, and more.
But ADA extends into the virtual world as well—requiring brands to ensure all web content can be accessed by visitors with disabilities.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some of you probably even worked on cases related to ADA. So I won’t sit here and bore you with the technical terms (or try to explain legal copy to a lawyer).
In 2010, the US DOJ passed the Americans with Disabilities Act for Accessible Design. This mandates all information technology and electronic communication (like websites) to be accessible for people with hearing loss, vision impairment, and other disabilities.
There aren’t any actual ADA regulations that have been clearly spelled out to enforce compliance. But businesses must develop a website offering “reasonable accessibility” to visitors with disabilities.
Even though there aren’t any clear rules defining ADA compliance for websites, it doesn’t mean businesses are off the hook. It’s still your responsibility to create a law firm website design that’s accessible to people who have disabilities.
So how can you develop an ADA-compliant law firm website without clear definitions of what ADA compliance means? The WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) will be your best point of reference.
While these aren’t technically legal requirements, they are internationally recognized as best practices for accessible web content.
Here’s an excerpt to explain the purpose of the WCAG:
It’s also worth noting that there are multiple versions of the WCAG guidelines. WCAG 2.0 was published back in December of 2008. WCAG 2.1 was published in June 2018. Another update (WCAG 2.2) is expected to be released in 2021.
These new WCAG versions are backward compatible, meaning if you meet the requirements of a newer version, you don’t need to look back at a previous version.
ADA Compliance For Law Firm Websites
Using the WCAG guidelines as a reference, I’ve created a checklist of things to include on your law firm website to ensure ADA compliance.
Under WCAG 2.1, all websites must be:
- Perceivable — Content must be presented in a way that’s easily perceivable, such as offering content with alternatives to text (like audio).
- Operable — Your site has to have simple navigation. An example includes keyboard accessibility for visitors to navigate and access content without a mouse.
- Understandable — All content must be easy to understand. Offering input assistance and making content predictable and readable fall into this category.
- Robust — Your website content must operate on multiple platforms and devices. This ensures that the website is compatible with assistive technologies.
These measures are set in place to improve website accessibility for people with visual impairments, hearing impairments, learning disorders, cognitive impairments, and other disabilities.
ADA Compliant Website Guidelines
Follow these tips and best practices below to ensure that your law firm website is ADA compliant:
Add an alt tag to all images, videos, and audio files on your website. This will allow visitors to read or listen to alternative descriptions of content they might not otherwise be able to interpret. An alt tag should describe the object, as well as its purpose served on your website.
Create a text transcript for all of the audio and video content on your website. These transcriptions will help hearing-impaired individuals consume content that they would not be able to understand in an audio-only environment. Closed captioning on videos would fall into this category.
Make sure you identify your law firm website’s language in the header code. This makes it easier for people who use text readers. A text reader must be able to read the language code to function properly.
Your website must be organized consistently. All links, buttons, and menus should be displayed in a way that has a clear lineated progression from one to another. This makes it easy for people to navigate throughout your entire website.
These categories are a broad scope of ADA compliance. Things like zoom-enablement, the ability to adjust text sizes, and change color contrast settings also fall into ADA compliance design practices. Review the complete WCAG 2.1 version for an in-depth explanation for every category. These regulations cover more information on ADA requirements for things like the ability to extend time on pages and prevent seizures from flashing content.
Evaluating Your Law Firm Website For ADA Guidelines
So is your website compliant with ADA or not? According to the WCAG, there are three levels to evaluate conformance:
- A — Basic web accessibility.
- AA — Accommodates the most basic and common barriers for disabled visitors.
- AAA — The highest level of ADA web accessibility (and most complex).
All criteria in WCAG 2.1 has one of these levels assigned to it. Here’s an example that shows the different levels for the most recent WCAG update:
As you can see, things like pointer gestures and name labels are considered A-level, meaning everyone should have this. Text-spacing, orientation, and non-text contrast fall into the AA category since they help meet the challenges faced by potential disabled website visitors.
Concurrent input mechanisms and animation from interactions are complex, so these are examples of AAA level compliance.
In a perfect world, your law firm website will hit all of the criteria suggested in WCAG 2.1. But at the very least, you should be implementing all of the A and AA accessibility guidelines.
All websites, including law firm websites, must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust under the WCAG 2.1 for ADA compliance.
There are dozens of specific website features and design choices that must be implemented in order to ensure the highest level of compliance.
In summary, make sure you follow these best practices. Otherwise, you could be discriminating against people with disabilities who want to view, navigate, and consume content on your law firm website.