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Master Class: ADA Compliance and Why it is Necessary for Law Firm Websites

Master Class: ADA Compliance and Why it is Necessary for Law Firm Websites

You are making the right choice by updating your law firm’s website in order to communicate more effectively with prospective clients, but are you unintentionally excluding a large part of your target audience? Without ADA compliance, visitors with disabilities will not be able to access the content on your site. Even if you spend a fortune on the most majestic content, enough to make your website king of the Internet, you will be losing out on some of the return on your investment if blind people cannot convert the text on your site to audio or Braille or if deaf people cannot convert the audio to captions. Websites for law firms should follow the same best practices for ADA compliance that the websites of government entities follow.

What is ADA Compliance for Websites?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires public accommodations, including the websites of public entities such as state and local governments, to be accessible to people with disabilities. It is because of the ADA that almost all public buildings now have wheelchair ramps and their elevators have the numbers marked in Braille.

Many people with disabilities access the Web through computers and mobile devices using assistive technology.  For example, blind people might use refreshable Braille displays or screen readers that convert visual text to content that can be accessed through hearing or touch.  People with low vision might simply use the settings on their computers to enlarge the displays or adjust the brightness or contrast of text and background colors. Not all websites are compatible with these features, but ensuring proper ADA compliance will allow you to make your website accessible to people with disabilities. Making your website ADA compliant is easier and less expensive than you might imagine.

Why Compliance Matters on Websites for Law Firms

Most people who hire lawyers first make contact with the law firm through its website.  Therefore, solo and small law firms are wise to invest in their websites in order to attract the greatest number of prospective clients. Some law firms devote a lot of resources to researching keywords and other practices that aim to boost the website’s SEO rankings, but it is the content on your site that will make the difference between simply making prospective clients aware that your law firm exists and making them want to contact you. The best content does not simply contain the keywords that the analytics software tells you that Google wants to see; it answers visitors’ questions about laws and legal situations related to your practice area. The more time visitors spend on your page reading your content, the more it enhances your SEO rankings.  Failure to make your law firm website ADA compliant is a missed opportunity both with prospective clients and with SEO.

How Your Law Firm Can Ensure ADA Compliance on Its Website

Here are some strategies for ensuring your law firm website is ADA compliant:

  • The forms attached to your site, which are often in PDF format, add value to your site, but they are not accessible to blind visitors and those with low vision. PDF files are a convenient file format for many reasons, but because they are images, screen readers and refreshable Braille displays cannot read the text they contain. To make your site ADA compliant, include the forms and other downloadable files in a text format, such as HTML or Rich Text Format (RTF), in addition to PDF.
  • Some law firm websites have stunningly beautiful images on their homepages, but screen readers and refreshable Braille displays also cannot make sense of these.  Every image should have an HTML “alt” tag (corresponding to a short description) or a “longdesc” tag (corresponding to a long description) with an accurate description of the image, because a blind visitor’s device can easily convert these tags to speech or Braille.
  • As proud as you may be of the color scheme of your website, you should design the site in such a way that visitors can adjust the brightness and contrast, so that visitors with low vision and other disabilities can adjust the text color and background color to a combination that is easier for them to read.
  • Adding podcasts and videos to your site is a popular trend in content marketing, but if you invest in content in these formats, you should also include text captioning to make the content accessible to visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • In general, static web pages are more compatible with accessibility technologies, and therefore more ADA compliant, than auto-refreshing pages or those requiring a timed response.

Making a few small changes to the design and content formats of your law firm’s website can go a long way toward making the site accessible to people with disabilities. These changes are a worthwhile investment, as they will benefit your target audience as well as your law firm.

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About the author

Landon Glover is the Director of Operations at ONE400. He is a licensed California attorney and a seasoned marketing professional with nearly a decade of experience working in the legal industry.

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