Businesses must make websites accessible to all people. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes accessibility guidelines. The guidelines apply to all types of businesses and organizations in various settings and refer to ease of access at physical and online locations. To be competitive, law firms must have a professional online presence, including ADA website compliance. When you have questions about the ADA, our digital marketing expert has the answers. Continue reading to learn more about the ADA and your law firm’s website.
ADA compliance is legally required but may also boost business because it promotes the following:
- Inclusion – Compliant website provides all users, including users with disabilities, with a positive user experience. In today’s digital world, important tasks are completed online. All users need the ability to locate information online and navigate a company’s website with ease. Accessibility creates an inclusive space and ensures everyone has equal access to job searches, real estate, voting, and all consumer services and information.
- Marketing Advantages – Not only does ADA compliance promote inclusion and allow for equal and fair user experiences online, but it may increase a business’s 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. When an accessible website and/or application is implemented for users, a lawyer’s clientele will grow because they can accommodate diverse users.
- Increased Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Rankings – A law firm can improve its online presence and increase search engine optimization (SEO) when its website is ADA-compliant. Search engine optimization boosts a website’s rankings, pulling more visitors to a specific site. This leads to increased customers and revenue. SEO can be increased by website accessibility in the following ways:
- Google search rankings will improve because people will have better experiences when they visit an accessible website.
- Users who utilize title tags can easily distinguish between multiple pages, which is essential for Search engine optimization.
- Users with screen readers need alt text, and search engines search for alt text in videos and images.
- Web content that is designed and organized effectively makes it easier to read for users who may have cognitive impairments or difficulties.
ADA Compliance Requirements
People with disabilities are protected from discrimination by the ADA. The ADA includes legal requirements for all types of businesses and government agencies. The law was established in 1992 and applied to the actual locations of businesses and agencies. Since then, the internet has become an integral part of business and government transactions, so the ADA now requires compliance with online platforms.
Who Must Adhere to ADA Requirements?
Compliance with ADA is required for businesses and organizations meeting the following criteria:
- Private companies with 15 employees or more
- Public-facing businesses
- Local, county, state, and federal government agencies
- Non-profit organizations operating for the benefit of the general public or that have at least 15 employees
Law firms are required to be ADA-compliant at their physical locations and online.
Online Accessibility – What Is Required?
The ADA ensures that disabled Americans have the same opportunities and experiences as all other citizens. This includes in-person experiences as well as online experiences. An inaccessible website will prevent equal access to information for disabled individuals.
Most services and businesses today are mainly accessed digitally through a website or an application. All individuals, including disabled individuals, must be able to view and participate online.
Even though this accessibility is required, it is not often clear what the rules are. There are no set rules regarding ADA website compliance. The gist of the law is that businesses and government agencies must create websites that provide equal communication and access for all groups. A law firm’s website must be designed to provide the same access, goods, and services to all visitors.
Legal Requirements for Website Accessibility
There is no formal set of regulations for website accessibility standards, but the same standards apply to websites and physical locations of businesses. Regarding accessibility guidelines, businesses and organizations refer to two sets of guidelines.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
- Section 508
Most worldwide businesses adhere to WCAG, published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) branch. The initial guidelines WCAG 1.0, established in 1999, have since been replaced by WCAG 2.0 and will soon be replaced by WCAG 3.0 by the end of 2022.
The United States follows Section 508, an amendment to the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 was established in 1998 and 1999 to make electronic information accessible to all individuals. WCAG refers specifically to websites, but Section 508 encompasses websites and other technical applications.
Both initiatives encourage websites and applications that are:
- perceivable, meaning content is readable using senses of hearing, sight, and/or touch;
- operable, including controls and navigations that are easy to operate by all users, regardless of disability;
- understandable to all users regardless of disability; and
- robust enough to be utilized by all users, including those who use assistive technologies.
How Does a Law Firm Become ADA-Compliant?
It is important for all businesses, including law firms, to review WCAG and Section 508 guidelines to become compliant. Many law firms turn to digital marketing agencies to help ensure ADA compliance, which is sometimes a complicated process.
Some ways that law firms make sure their online presence is ADA-compliant include:
- Using Alt tags for images, videos, and audio. Alt tags provide alternative descriptions for the hearing and sight impaired. For example, blind users can access an audio description of a picture or image provided on a website.
- Using text transcripts for videos and audio on webpages to accommodate hearing-impaired users.
- Identifying the language being used. A website’s language can be identified in the header code. This makes it easier for users with text readers to navigate.
- Providing alternatives to input errors. If a user with disabilities experiences input errors while trying to navigate a website, they should receive suggestions from the website to make navigating the site easier for them.
Digital Marketing Next Steps
Becoming an ADA-compliant law firm is not easy, but it is an integral part of an effective marketing strategy. When you build a website that is ADA compliant, you not only protect your firm, but also provide visitors with an easy-to-use resource.
Annette Choti, Esq. graduated from law school 20 years ago, and is the Founder of Law Quill, a legal digital marketing agency focused on small and solo law firms. Annette wrote the bestselling book Click Magnet: The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide For Law Firms, and hosts the podcast Legal Marketing Lounge. She is a sought-after keynote and CLE speaker throughout the United States and Canada. Annette used to do theatre and professional comedy, which is not so different from the legal field if we are all being honest. Annette can be found on LinkedIn or at at email@example.com.