Law Firms Websites and the Americans with Disabilities Act: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Government Website Rules for Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act

In an effort to ensure that all individuals with disabilities have access to programs, services and related activities, all government websites (state, local and federal) must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“One way to help meet these requirements is to ensure that government websites have accessible features for people with disabilities, using the simple steps described in this document. An agency with an inaccessible website may also meet its legal obligations by providing an alternative accessible way for citizens to use the programs or services, such as a staffed telephone information line. These alternatives, however, are unlikely to provide an equal degree of access in terms of hours of operation and the range of options and programs available.”

These rules have been around for more than a decade.  The ADA provides a long list of considerations for web developers, including but not limited to:

  • Alternative text for all photos and media (captions)
  • Skip navigation buttons
  • Limited blinking and flashing
  • Descriptive HTML tabs on all forms
  • Visual notification and transcripts if sound or video is playing
  • Intuitive site architecture

Web developers must comply with Section 508 standards if they are building a government website, but how do these requirements apply to commercial and public websites?

What ADA Requirements Mean for Your Law Firm Website

Recent reports indicate that the U.S. Department of Justice is considering broadening the Section 508 guidelines to include not only government websites, but all public and commercial websites.

However, the U.S. Department of Justice has been delaying making the change official.

The next potential date for the change is Summer 2015, and although nothing is set in stone and there are no official rules, we all know where this is going.

In recent cases, the U.S. Department of Justice stated all websites must comply with the ADA, even if the current regulations have not expressly stated that yet.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that Netflix’s video streaming website is a “place of public accommodation” covered under Title III of the ADA, even though the website has no nexus to a physical place.

How to Make Your Website ADA-Friendly

We at PaperStreet believe your website should be accessible and understandable by everyone (otherwise it is just wasted marketing). We fully support the idea of editing your site to be compliant with the regulations in place for government websites. Use the list below to make some simple changes that will make your website friendly for all users.

Is it Perceivable?

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning

Is it Operable?

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard
  • Give users enough time to read and use content
  • Do not use content that causes seizures
  • Help users navigate and find content
  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools

Is it Understandable?

  • Make text readable and understandable
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes

Is it Robust?

  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools

Our Expert Opinion on the Matter

There are no set rules for commercial websites, including law firms … yet. However, given that the U.S. Department of Justice has indicated in court cases that the ADA guidelines apply to all websites, we believe it is only a matter of time before the rules become enforceable for all commercial websites (no telling when though).

Our recommendation is to make sure your entire website is compliant with the ADA. That way when the rules change, you have nothing to update (no one needs the extra drama anyway).

Resources & Additional Reading

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One Response to Law Firms Websites and the Americans with Disabilities Act: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

  1. lawrence shaw
    6:15 am on January 18th, 2018

    Hello,

    How about a table – reporting the level of compliance for say US top 50 firms?

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