Digital Accessibility for Law Firms: Why Lawyers Need to Prioritize Accessibility

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Your firm’s reputation and business could get a boost because you are capable of meeting and serving people who have a disability.

As more potential clients continue to search for attorneys online, law firms must prioritize digital accessibility. This means making sure technology is available to a wide range of users, including people with disabilities.

According to the 2010 national Census Bureau report, one in five, or about 56.7 million people, have had or have a disability. People with a disability may sometimes have trouble learning and utilizing new technologies.

As a lawyer, your job is to help those who may not be able to help themselves with legal issues and representation. That same service should include helping your clients who may have a disability with easy-to-use, accessible technology.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with a disability. The ADA defines disability as physical or mental impairment that has or does hamper major activities in a person’s life.

Title III of the ADA states that, “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”

With the internet swiftly becoming an essential tool for everyday life, technology has rapidly surpassed the original objective of the bill’s language.

A law firm’s website could now be considered a public accommodation in the eyes of a civil judge.

That is why there is the risk of legal ramification if your website is not made accessible for people with disabilities. In 2017 alone there were at least 814 lawsuits in the United States claiming that the defendants’ websites were inaccessible.

Being the law firm in your market area that utilizes digital accessibility to its full potential can help you stand out against your competitors. Your reputation and business could get a boost because you are capable of meeting and serving people who may have a disability.

How are law firms keeping up to date with accessibility?
To keep up to date on emerging technology and information that pertains to digital accessibility, law firms should bookmark and periodically audit the Web Accessibility Initiative website, which posts news on digital accessibility updates and amendments. The site also offers resources for content writers, web designers and developers on how to implement changes to improve digital accessibility.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), published in January 1995 and revamped in December 2008, is the definitive guideline law firms can use to ensure their website is digitally accessible. It was published by the World Wide Web Consortium, the international standards body for the internet.

What can you do to make sure your website is accessible to all who visit?
Having a web developer that is well-versed in the four principles of the WCAG and capable of regularly allocating time to check for minor updates and revisions will allow your website to stay digitally accessible now and for the future.

The four principles included within the WCAG are:

1. Perceivable
Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

2. Operable
User interface components and navigation must be operable.

3. Understandable
Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

4. Robust
Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. Assistive technology is hardware that may help people with disabilities fully explore your website on their end. Examples of assistive technology are:

• Alternative mouse and keyboards
• Speech recognition and text-to-speech software
• Screen magnifiers and readers

Examples of AAA Standards In WCAG Accessibility Guidelines
There are three levels of standards within the WCAG guidelines, classified as A-AAA. Updating your website to AAA specification means you have followed the international standards for digital accessibility to the highest degree. Here are some AAA standards, out of a total of 23, that your web developer can implement to make your website as easy as possible for people with disabilities to use.

• Sign language available for pre-recorded audio
• Comprehensive audio descriptions
• Contrast ratio of at least 7:1 for text, excluding large-scale texts and logotypes
• All web functions are accessible through a keyboard
• No time-limit for functions other than real-time events
• Any web page cannot flash more than three times in one second, this is to prevent any opportunities for seizures
• Definitions, abbreviations and pronunciations for context-specific words or phrases must be readily available

Are there tools available to check your site’s pages?
Extensions are plug-ins that can enhance your browser’s functionality. If you use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox as your web browser, there are free extensions that can provide you feedback about how accessible your website’s content is, and what you can do to improve user experience, especially for people with disabilities.

Following are a few extensions that may help your website improve its digital accessibility:

WAVE Evaluation Tool
The WAVE extension will help evaluate the accessibility of your website by annotating its pages. WAVE marks up your pages with icons that indicate whether certain elements are accessible, giving you visual feedback about items that may need updating. According to WAVE creators, the extension is meant to serve as an educational tool that helps website owners learn about accessibility issues. While it cannot tell you definitively whether your pages are accessible, it can help you understand what types of elements can be problematic for people with disabilities.

Siteimprove Accessibility Checker
The Siteimprove Accessibility Checker is another tool that will help you assess your website’s accessibility. Like the WAVE extension, it provides visual feedback by highlighting issues within the page. Siteimprove claims to offer an overview of page accessibility, explanations of how any issues might affect users and recommendations on fixes.

aXe
The aXe extension is an open source solution aimed more at experienced, developer-level users. The aXe interface presents the accessibility issue in a dialogue box, gives you the element location and element source within your website’s code, and suggests a fix.

If your website is capable of being fully functional for someone with a disability, you will increase the likelihood of a conversion. You may also be able to get a more clear idea of your client’s legal issues. Being able to easily use your website will give potential clients confidence and trust in your firm. Knowing you have taken the time to make content accessible will give them the peace of mind that they have made the right decision in choosing you to represent them.

Making your whole practice accessible, from your website, to your document management and digital communication, to your office design, can be mutually beneficial for you and your clients.

Clear understanding of the facts between you and your clients is crucial to the success of any case. Having the ability for a disabled individual to come into your office and meet you in-person will only serve to increase your chances of a successful case. For a client during an ongoing legal case, having the digital tools available on location, if needed, to concisely convey the parameters of the case can only be advantageous for everyone.

Original article can be found here

Working on a website can be difficult. Adding new media and updating pages is chore, even though you know your company website needs to evolve and become more accessible to the many users you are trying to reach. Maybe when you first built it, accessibility wasn’t even really discussed. But now you’ve taken a step back, looked at your customer base with a desire to include everyone and you’ve realized just how important it is to make your site accessible. However, the thought of building a robust site that can do all the things you want it to do is overwhelming.

What is Web Accessibility

A practice of designing and coding the website in order to provide complete compatibility in accessing it by people with disabilities. In addition, it is a way to improve search engine optimization only an ADA Compliant Web Designer will help you to make your website Compliant. Is your website compatible? By going through the checklist below, you can get the answer.

Assessing Current Web Pages and Content

  • The website must include a feature like a navigation link at the top of the page. These links have a bypass mechanism such as a “skip navigation” link. This feature directs screen readers to bypass the row of navigation links and start at the web page content. It is beneficial for people who use screen readers to avoid to listen to all the links each time they jump to a new page.
  • All the links should be understandable when taken out of the context. For example, images without alternative text and links without worded as “click here”.
  • All the graphics, maps, images, and other non-text content must provide text alternatives through the alt attribute, a hidden/visible long description.
  • All the documents posted on the website should available in HTML or another accessible text-based format. It is also applicable to other formats like Portable Document Format (PDF).
  • The online forms on the website should be structured so assistive technology can identify, describe and operate the controls and inputs. By doing this, people with disabilities can review and submit the forms.
  • If the website has online forms, the drop-down list should describe the information instead of displaying a response option. For instance, “Your Age” instead of “18-25”.
  • If the website has data charts and tables, they should be structured so that all data cells are associated with column and row identifiers.
  • All the video files on the website must have audio descriptions (if necessary). This is for the convenience of blind people or for having a visual impairment disability.
  • All the video files on the website must have synchronized captions. People with hearing problems or deaf can access these files conveniently.
  • All the audio files on the website should have synchronized captions to provide access to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • All web pages should be designed so that they can be viewed using visitors’ web browser and operating system settings for color and font.

About Website Accessibility Policy and Procedures

  • One must have a written policy on website accessibility.
  • The website accessibility policy must be posted on the website at a location where it can be easily found.
  • The procedure should be developed to ensure that content is not added to the website until it has been made accessible.
  • It should be confirmed that the website manager has checked the code and structure of all new web pages before they are posted.
  • While adding the PDFs to the website, these should be accessible. Also, the text-based versions of the documents should be accessible at the same time as PDF versions.
  • Make sure that the in-house and contractor staff has received the information about the website accessibility policy and procedure to confirm the website accessibility.
  • It should be confirmed that in-house and contractor staff has received appropriate training on how to ensure the accessibility of the website.
  • The website should have a specific written plan if it contains inaccessible content. Also, it should include timeframes in place to make all of the existing web content accessible.
  • A complete plan to improve website accessibility should be posted along with invited suggestions for improvement.
  • The homepage should include easily locatable information that includes contact details like telephone number and email address. This is useful for reporting website accessibility problems and requesting accessibility services with information.
  • A website should have procedures in place to assure a quick response to the visitors with disabilities who have difficulty in accessing information or services available on the website.
  • Feedback from people who use a variety of assistive technologies is helpful in ensuring website accessibility. So make sure to ask disability groups representing people to provide feedback on the accessibility of your website.
  • Testing the website using a product available on the internet is helpful, These tools are of free cost and check the accessibility of a website. They may not identify all accessibility issues and flag issues that are not accessibility problems. However, these are, nonetheless, a helpful way to improve website accessibility.

Checklist of Action Items for Improving the Accessibility of a Website

In addition, while considering the above suggestions, the following checklist initially prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Federal Agencies provides further guidelines on ways to make websites more accessible for persons with disabilities.

This practical advice, as well as another checklist, are available at:

Satisfying all of these items does not necessarily mean that a website complies with ADA, but it will improve the website’s accessibility and decrease the risk of litigation. Again, an Expert or Web Accessibility Consulting & Services provider should be engaged to conduct a comprehensive review of your website.
Nothing brings you closer to reality than actually facing it. This is the premise of my latest attempt to spread awareness about Web Accessibility.
For better understand, here is a link in which a practical example is shown to make the websites’ user experience better by following the guidelines. Also, it tells the issues affecting various users on the internet with solutions.
You can make your website ADA compliant in an easy way by consulting the professionals, who can do this job effortlessly. Also, you can get a quick website audit from To Be ADA Compliant that offers complete web accessibility consulting & services in California, USA.

Resource: https://dev.to/chinchang/an-interactive-and-practical-introduction-to-web-accessibility-22o1