By Peter Boyd, a Florida attorney who founded PaperStreet. He has helped over 1,500 law firms with their websites, content and marketing.
For law firms with an online presence, having a website that is designed with accessibility in mind is crucial. Many firms are trying to reach clients who come from all walks of life—some of whom may have a disability or some other serious impairment that limits their ability to type, manipulate a mouse, see a screen or hear audio. That is why firms are strongly encouraged to engage the services of a website design company that is aware of and abides by the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—or at the very least, ensure their in-house web design team follows them.
Below is a small sample of some of the more common ADA-compliance mistakes that law firms need to avoid when considering the design of their website.
Don’t leave out ADA-compliant keyboard access.
For those who can’t use a keyboard and/or mouse, and for those who can’t see the cursor on the screen, viewing noncompliant websites can be next to impossible. Websites that meet ADA requirements will integrate a way for people with disabilities to access and navigate between buttons, links, etc. by using various keystrokes. This means that your designer will more than likely need to create some custom controls and styles that can be used to enhance the user’s experience.
Your site’s color contrast matters.
Inadequate color contrast can make it very hard for seniors, people with various forms of eye disease, people who may be dealing with eye strain on a temporary basis and people with other visual impairments to differentiate words from graphics/images and backgrounds. That said, website designers are encouraged to use compliant colors at the point of creation (there are ADA-compliant color palettes available for those who need them). For instance, according to the WCAG, the contrast should be 4.5:1 (minimum) with a solid background. However, sites with enhanced visual presentations could have a ratio as high as 7:1.
All images need alt text.
There’s no doubt about it—images add a level of visual excitement to what is otherwise ordinary boring text, particularly when we talk about law firm sites. Still, problems can occur when technology that typically reads screens or performs other helpful functions is not usable. In comes alt text. For those with visual impairments, alt text provides context to images.
For the non-tech folks, if an image does not have alt text, it is considered broken. So for sites that have numerous images, each one will need its own unique alt text that properly describes the image to assist screen readers.
Compliance can save you more than just money in the long run.
When you have a website design that is accessible to those with all types of disabilities, your firm will be able to engage with millions of potential clients—including some of the over 60 million Americans who have disabilities. Think about it. Have you ever wondered how much online business gets lost on a daily or weekly basis just because a person with certain disabilities is unable to navigate a website?
Having an ADA-compliant website design shines a positive light on your firm’s brand and provides a better user experience for all current and future clients regardless of any disabilities they may have. Make sure your site is compliant today.