ADA Compliance for Lawyers and Attorneys

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for Law Firm Websites

Despite the fact that there is little Federal web accessibility case law or State law and no legal definition describing the parameters of a website compliance for lawyers, attorneys should still want to voluntarily accommodate people with disabilities on their website because it’s good for business and it’s the right thing to do. 

In 2017, plaintiffs filed 814 federal lawsuits in Federal Court for digital accessibility , and these numbers are increasing annually. More recently the Supreme Court punted and didn’t render a decision that would have clarified things in terms of the types of companies that need to get their website in compliance. If you sell goods and services to potential customers in a store, it seems sort of obvious that should offer equal access. But what if you are just providing a personal interaction online? Should you have to build a compliant website and be subject to the ADA website compliance standards?

The Internet is a central component of our everyday lives. According to CNN coverage of a Nielson Company audience report, the average American spends nearly half a day staring at a screen, which is about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day. Several analytics firms report that U.S. users in a variety of physical places now spend upwards of 5 hours per day on mobile application devices alone. While these statistics may be alarming, they merely point to the centrality of the internet in modern life. The ubiquitous internet is a platform that should provide equal access to people of all types, and no one wants to have web accessibility issues when using an Internet browser with a screen reader.

Though it’s not clear if a law firm physical location qualifies as a public accommodation, avoiding website accessibility cases should be a part of managing your overall risk management profile. Being subject to a disability rights related Federal Lawsuit by a disability advocacy group would truly be a PR disaster.

Besides minimizing litigations risk, here are some reasons to ensure that your user interface meets the gold standard for ADA website accessibility and compliance.

Regardless of the type of law practiced, law firms exist to provide legal services to a community. Visitors to your website will have a range of capabilities, varying fluency in English, and contrasting expectations of how they should be able to access information. Making your firm’s website as accessible as possible, demonstrates a commitment to inclusion. Offering text transcripts of PDF files (that cannot be read by screen reading software) is a reasonable way to avoid disability discrimination.

For many contacts and clients, their first point of contact with your firm is an accessible website. Establishing an open, welcoming digital presence for a disabled person is more than just addressing a civil rights issue related to public accommodations: it’s a good business decision. Addressing accessibility concerns gives disabled individuals the same physical access that nondisabled people enjoy.Financial Returns

In addition to what is happening in Federal Courts, you can look to certain state courts like California and New York and see a surge in web accessibility lawsuits all based on the disability laws that apply to the 15 types of public accommodations for physical stores and offices. Your law firm does not need an Accessibility Expert to help you get your site into compliance. To build a website that includes a framework of accessible design is something any accessibility coordinator can help provide. 

Providing reasonable accessibility could save your law firm from that first Demand Letter that triggers the litigation and the high cost of legal fees, which is oftentimes time-consuming, costly, and damaging to your firm’s brand. Think of this as one your many high quality legal best practices which also provide benefits like increased SEO, market share, and a significantly improved user experience.

Compliance Benefits 

As the legal industry comes to terms with meeting Federal regulations for web accessibility standards, consider that you can be ahead of the curve in improving the user-experience for everyone visiting your site. Websites that are easy to use are the most effective. Most visitors to your firm’s site are trying to complete an action or access information. Simplicity and modifiable navigation make it easy for users to engage with your firm, which is good for business. Technologies advance pretty quickly and we have a software application that moves you quickly onto the road of avoiding appearances in District Court explaining to your State’s attorney general why your law firm couldn’t spend a few dollars to make your Website ADA compliant.