The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination at work, at school, and in most areas of public life. As part of compliance, businesses and public services must improve accessibility for people with disabilities and remove physical and communication barriers to service.
In recent years, there have been rising concerns about how the ADA applies online and what makes a website accessible to people with disabilities.
Currently, there are no laws that require accessibility on websites. A short-lived attempt was withdrawn at the end of last year, and we don’t expect to see website accessibility standards added to the ADA in the foreseeable future.
Foster Web Marketing has been watching this issue closely for years, and we have plans in place for continuing to improve accessibility on our websites over the long term and becoming fully compliant as laws change. We have already implemented some accessibility features on our websites, and we believe that improving accessibility online just makes good business sense.
The biggest problem right now is that, since the ADA doesn’t address accessibility on websites, we don’t know exactly what the standards might be if they are eventually added. There are some proposed standards that have been outlined by the IT industry and groups representing people with disabilities, but those standards were not officially adopted and are now outdated.
“Full compliance” with whatever standards might be chosen could involve hundreds of thousands of development hours, along with hundreds of hours of time to fully implement the requirements with each individual client.
While we have plans in place to continue improving website accessibility, nobody in the industry really knows what the final standards—if implemented—will be or what compliance might look like.
At this point, any web company that promises “full ADA compliance” on websites is offering something that does not exist.
What You Can Do Now to Improve Accessibility on Law Firm Websites
All that being said, there are steps you can take now to help users with disabilities use your law firm’s website better. Many of the following suggestions are fairly simple to implement, and many improve your website’s overall usability for all users:
- Use alt tags for images. Alt tags are used in website code to provide a text description of each image on a page. This allows users to get a description of each image file that can be read by screen-reader services or viewed if the element does not render properly. You want your alt tags to be short and simple, but also accurate and descriptive of the image. This not only helps more users understand what is on the page, it helps Google better understand your content, too.
- Use consistent, thoughtful code. Screen readers and other assistive devices and services may rely on information in a website’s code to work properly for their users, such as labels that identify non-text elements and information about the language used on the page. While you may not be able to hit every mark for every device or service available, you can go a long way toward providing accessibility by providing consistent, thoughtful backend code for your website.
- Transcribe audio and video content. If you feature videos or audio recordings on your website, it is a good practice to also offer a text transcription of the content. This is something that is helpful for some users with disabilities and may also encourage readers who simply prefer text over video. If your law firm’s videos are on YouTube, you may consider taking the additional step of adding closed captioning.
- Choose contrasting colors. The color palette you choose for your website can have a big impact on users with impaired vision. To increase the readability of your content, buttons, and menus, go for a high-contrast color scheme that is easy to read and clearly delineates foreground, background, and buttons.
- Keep navigation straightforward and consistent. People rely on the menus, buttons, and other navigation elements on your website to get around and find the content they need. You want your navigational elements to be easy to understand, easy to use, and consistent across your website to offer a better and more accessible user experience for all your visitors.
Although the ADA does not mandate accessibility on websites, improving your website with accessibility in mind is still a wise move. After all, you lose all the business that can’t access what you have to offer.
Do you have questions about how to make your website more accessible to people with disabilities? Do you need help implementing more accessibility features?
Give us a call at 888.886.0939 or ask for a free website design consultation with our award-winning team. While we can’t promise you a “100% ADA-compliant website,” we can help you implement better accessibility now and create a plan for the future.