The Internet has revolutionized many aspects of our lives: shopping, eating out or ordering in, and generally finding goods or services. However, not all websites provide equal access to all people. For attorneys seeking to attract potential clients online, having an accessible law firm website is important both for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and improving website traffic.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) provides rules and guidance to ensure that individuals with physical or mental disabilities are not discriminated against and have equal access to goods and services. Because the Internet was in its infancy in 1990, website accessibility policy is not specifically addressed in the Act.
A legal opinion regarding the applicability of Title III of the ADA to websites is beyond the scope of this document. However, the Act defines a place of public accommodation to include privately operated commercial facilities whose operations affect commerce. And the US Department of Justice has applied the Act to websites.
With lawsuits related to web accessibility and the ADA on the rise, creating and implementing ADA-friendly law firm website requirements should be a priority. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a helpful starting point for law firms who need to evaluate web accessibility and the ADA requirements.
Here are a few tips to get your firm moving toward a more accessible law firm website.
Tips to Achieve an Accessible Law Firm Website
If your firm’s internal law firm website requirements include accessible website design, you will not only comply with the law, but also potentially expand your client base. Many website accessibility features (such as providing text descriptions for images) are also good practice for search engine optimization (SEO), so your firm may already have some of these features in place prior to considering a website accessibility policy.
Tip 1: Text Descriptions Make Images More Accessible
Many blind or visually impaired users use screen readers, devices that read the content of websites aloud. Screen readers cannot interpret images without text description tags called alt-text, such as “ABC Law Firm Logo” or “Photo of Our Founder, Brian Young.”
Alt-text for images is beneficial for ADA compliance and SEO. Search engines, like screen readers, cannot discern images without text. Descriptions of images that contain keywords related to the content of a web page convey the meaning of images and page content to search engines, like Google, and can help improve your law firm website’s ranking in search results for those related terms.
Tip 2: Use Transcripts and Captions for an Accessible Law Firm Website
Deaf or hearing-impaired users do not have equal access to audio or video files without transcripts or captions. Law firms should ensure that audio transcripts are available and that all videos have accurate descriptions, captions, or transcripts.
Like images, video and audio content are not readable by search engines. Metadata provides some context to search engines, but transcripts and captions allow you to more clearly convey the purpose of the content as well as the intended audience.
Tip 3: Enable Keyboard Controls and Optimize for Voice Commands
Many physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, limit fine motor control. Users with these disabilities may use the keyboard or voice commands that use keyboard controls. You should make sure your law firm website has options for keyboard controls for all content, including stopping and starting videos and audio, to help physically or visually impaired users as well as older users who might not use a mouse.
Voice commands are also becoming more common among the general population. More people are using speech recognition and voice assistant technology, and this trend is expected to continue. SEO that doesn’t consider searches that are spoken rather than typed into a keyboard will miss valuable opportunities.
Tip 4: Resizable Text for Accessibility and User Experience
Most web browsers have controls that allow users to make text larger, which is useful if someone has a visual impairment. However, in many cases, websites that are zoomed-in like this have overlapping text, with various causes:
- There is not enough blank space between elements on the page.
- The text does not wrap, requiring horizontal scrolling which may be difficult or impossible depending on the user’s disability.
It’s good practice to run tests by zooming in all pages on your site up to 200 percent to make sure they are readable.
Font size and the ability to zoom or enlarge text will impact user experience for your general audience as well, particularly on mobile devices, which are used with increasing frequency to access the Internet. Poor readability can cause readers to become frustrated and leave your site more quickly, negatively impacting SEO.
Tip 5: Alternative Forms of Captchas Are a Necessity for a More Accessible Law Firm Website
Websites often use captchas to ensure that the user interacting with them is a person, not a robot. If you have captchas that must be typed, be sure you have an option to read them out loud for those who are visually impaired.
Captchas can fulfill some security-related law firm website requirements. But, in addition to causing potential frustrations for users, these security barriers can be harmful to a site’s ADA compliance and SEO. There are various forms of captchas. Evaluating what is best for your site and in keeping with your website accessibility policy is beneficial both for ADA compliance and SEO.
Moving Beyond the Basics for an SEO-Friendly, ADA Accessible Law Firm Website
There are many other more advanced things you can do to make a law firm website accessible, in addition to the steps above. The Web Accessibility Initiative provides tips for more accessible websites, as well as a list of steps for evaluating website accessibility. You can also use the Wave Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool to see what improvements your site needs and guide your website accessibility policy.
If you’re in need of a law firm website or online marketing strategy, contact the lawyer-driven team at TOPDOG Legal Marketing. Call us today at (844) HEY-TDOG (439-8364) or complete our online contact form.