People who are deaf, blind, handicap or suffering from hearing loss, visual impairment and motor impairment will encounter more challenges when searching for a lawyer.
Websites may be designed in a way that is not conducive to keyboard only navigation. Videos and audio may be inaccessible to people with hearing loss. Important graphics and charts may include colors indistinguishable to people with color blindness.
If your law firm’s website is not accessible to people with disabilities, you may be missing out on a big chunk of your potential client base. Nearly 20 percent of Americans live with some sort of disability. In addition, people over the age of 65 account for about 15 percent of the population. Two million people are blind, 7.6 million are auditory impaired and 19.9 million cannot use a mouse.
If you specialize in personal injury, elder law, estate planning, or literally any other practice area, your website should cater to people with disabilities. Fortunately, there are several easy steps you can take to make sure that your website is accessible. Here are a few tips use can use to create a disability-friendly website.
Use Periods In Abbreviations
Abbreviations are common in the legal community. Lawyers use J.D. instead of juris doctor. They may use IRS instead of Internal Revenue Service. Abbreviations are also prevalent when citing court decisions and other legal resources.
Using periods, or spelling out the abbreviated term, will help visitors using a screen reader understand what you are talking about. Screen readers will read out every word on your website phonetically. So if you practice tax law and you use IRS throughout your website, a visitor using a screen reader will only hear “irs.” To make sure this doesn’t happen, use I.R.S.
Create Subtitles And Transcripts For Audio
Lawyers love putting videos on their websites. Video is often found on home pages, about us pages, practice pages and landing pages. Video is highly engaging and can be a great resource for law firms. But for people with hearing impairments, the message can fall flat.
To make sure that all of your visitors benefit from video on your law firm’s website, you should include subtitles in the video. Fortunately, Youtube has tools that allow users to add subtitles. At the very least, you should include a transcript to accompany the video.
Use Alt Tags For Photos
If a photo is worth a thousand words, then what are you saying to your visitors with visual impairment or blindness?
Do a quick assessment of the photos on your website. When you hover over an image on your site, do you see little words appear? These are called alt tags. When a web visitor uses a screen reader, the information in these alt tags will be read aloud. This will be all of the information the visitor will have regarding the photo.
The good news is that you can easily change the alt tags for the photos appearing on your website. Each photo should have an alt tag that includes a brief but accurate description of the photo. If it is a picture of you working at your desk, for example, the alt tag should say “attorney _______ working at her desk.”
Describe And Highlight Your Links
Admit it. In the past when you linked to another page on your site, or have a call to action for a free consultation, you probably embedded the link with the words “click here.” We are all guilty of it, but the practice should stop now.
If your website includes internal or external links to additional sources of information, your links should be descriptive. Instead of “For a free consultation, “click here,” your links should say something like “To schedule a free consultation, fill out this form.”
In addition, your links should be underlined and color contrasted to make them stand out from regular text so that colorblind readers can easily identify clickable links.
Choose Your Colors Wisely
Speaking of colorblind users, you should be wary of your color choices when designing your law firm’s website.
For example, pairing yellow text on a green background may make it nearly impossible to distinguish the text from the background. Instead, opt for color choices that provide contrast. Black and white is an obvious choice, but you can also play around with different color combinations.
If you want examples of good (and bad) color pairings, check out this guide to contrasting foreground and background colors from Lifewire.
Try Out A Website Accessibility Tool
If you want to make your law firm’s website as accessible as possible, there are a number of tools on the market that can do it for you. UserWay, for example, is a free WordPress plugin that instantly helps people with a range of disabilities access all of your website. The tool can enlarge the text on your website, read your site’s pages, desaturate colors, create more color contrast and it highlights links.
With these simple steps, your law firm will improve its compliance with accessibility requirements under regulations such as the American Disabilities Act. But more importantly, your prospective clients will be able to navigate your website with ease and find the information they are looking for.