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ADA Website Design Compliance for Lawyer Websites: Your Complete Guide

March, 04 2022
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Jo Stephens

Try All government agency websites must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While there are no specific technological rules for legal website design and ADA compliance, there are some valuable suggestions you should adhere to.

It is essential that your law firm consider ADA compliance issues in the design of its website.

ADA–The Law and a Law firm websites design

All attorney web designs should follow the ADA guidelines as closely as possible!

Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act stipulates that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology must be accessible to persons with disabilities.

Section 508 removed barriers to information technology, making it more accessible to people with disabilities and encouraging the development of technologies that can help them achieve their goals. All Federal agencies that develop, procure, and maintain electronic or information technology are subject to the law.

To better understand Section 508 and to support its implementation, we recommend that you read the regulations and laws. For a complimentary consultation, contact us today.

What the ADA Has to Say About Websites?

Despite its several amendments in the web-oriented era, the ADA does not address online compliance. Because the law does not provide any specific coverage, the courts decide whether ADA standards apply to a particular website.

ADA rules also apply to commercial websites. 

The most notable example is the Winn-Dixie case against a supermarket chain for not making its site accessible for people with low vision. Other court cases ruled the ADA does not provide any protections for internet users. A website isn’t definitively governed by ADA accessibility rules because there are no federal overarching rules.

The issue was further complicated by the fact that the U.S. appears to be close to adopting more extensive accessibility requirements. Federal regulations that were due to take effect in January 2018 would have required federal websites to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG)

These guidelines are the foundation for accessibility rules online for the majority of Europe and many other countries around the globe. The online applications for the ADA are still murky but still essential for law firm sites.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), covers a broad range of recommendations to make Web content more accessible. These guidelines will make content more accessible for people with disabilities such as blindness, low vision, hearing loss, deafness, and learning disabilities. They also address cognitive limitations, limited movement, and speech disabilities. 

In June 2018, the WCAG guidelines were upgraded from 2.0 to 2.1. The 2.1 updates cover technological changes that have occurred since 2.0 and address areas that were not covered in 2.0. 

Does My Legal Website Design Have to Comply With the ADA?

It’s unclear how or if ADA rules apply to any website. However, it’s a good idea to be cautious.

A number of states have implemented their own accessibility regulations, and the number of accessibility-related lawsuits filed against websites has swelled in recent years. These suits have seen greater success rates for plaintiffs than ever before. Companies shouldn’t gamble on a favorable outcome because there are no clear regulations.

Without a set of accessibility guidelines to follow, how do you know if your website conforms? 

The WCAG 2.0 Level AA Guidelines are the best available measure. Since 1999, the WCAG standards have been used as the guiding accessibility principle for the European Union and other nations. The most recent update took effect in spring 2018. Although WCAG is a recommendation of actions, not enforceable legislation in the European Union and other countries since 1999, it has been the backbone of many accessibility laws online around the globe and serves as a strong model for American organizations striving for equal access for all users.

How to Make My Website ADA Compliant

ADA compliance website checklist (levels)

The WCAG guidelines divide accessibility issues into three levels. The ability of disabled visitors to navigate the website can be seriously limited by level A issues. Level AA issues are more grounded in functionality and address areas that can be improved to provide disabled users with a full site experience. Level AAA issues are the highest level, fine-tuning or expanding on issues that have been identified at Level A and Level AA. Although it is a great goal, most websites will not be able to achieve full Level AAA compliance.

Focus areas

Under WCAG guidelines, accessibility issues can be divided into four groups. They can be summarized with the acronym P.O.U.R.

  • Perceivable issues – are issues that affect the user’s ability to find and process information from a website.
  • Operable issues – refer to problems that affect a visitor’s ability to navigate and use a site. For example, it is important that all functions and navigation are accessible via keyboard-only commands.
  • Understandable Issues – refer to a user’s ability to comprehend all information on a website. This includes, for example, creation error messages that provide a clear explanation and directions for correcting the error.
  • Robust Issues – refer to a website’s capability to adjust to the varying needs and abilities of users. This includes testing compatibility with all major screen readers and ensuring that these capabilities can be upgraded in the future.

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act’s impact on online accessibility will be unclear for the near future, it is clear that equal access is a concern for Americans and the courts that provide services to them. To avoid requiring clear national guidelines, adherence to WCAG accessibility standards is the best choice for most organizations. This is not just smart to avoid negative publicity and accessibility lawsuits, but it’s also a smart move to provide accessible solutions for all users.

Website ADA compliance checklist

While the following isn’t comprehensive, this  ADA compliance checklist for websites should give you an overview of what it takes to ensure that your website is ADA compliant. 

  • Please read the law documentation.
  • Every media file and map should include an “alt” tag.
  • Your online forms should contain descriptive HTML tags.
  • Every hyperlink should contain a descriptive anchor text.
  • All pages of your website should have “skip navigation” links.
  • Heading tags organize all text content.
  • Accessible PDF files must be available for all users.
  • Subtitles, transcripts, and audio descriptions should be included in all videos.
  • Accessible fonts for all types of applications.
  • All HTML tables must be filled with column headers, row IDs and cell information.
  • Every audio file on your website should include a caption written in English.
  • Every call to action button on your website must have an easily accessible name and ARIA label.
  • Your website should be easily accessible via keyboard navigation.
  • Create a website accessibility policy page.
  • Users can request accessibility information through easily located contact information.
  • Automate your website accessibility checks to avoid missing important accessibility issues.
  • Check your website accessibility using the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Level A Compliance

These items comprise basic guidelines for website accessibility:

  • There are no significant validation errors.
  • Send notifications to the user when time limits are reached.
  • The user is notified if the form input is invalid.
  • Screen reader software can read alternate text in images.
  • A text transcript or description is required to accompany audio-only or video content.
  • Captions are available for video content.
  • To view media content, you must click on links provided by media players.
  • “B” and “i” tags replaced by “strong” or “em..
  • The site does not have flashing graphics or strobe effects.
  • Present headings in a logical sequence.
  • There are no heading tags or empty links.
  • Users can stop automatically playing audio.
  • You can stop automatic scrolling and blinking of content.
  • You can navigate the site using the keyboard.
  • The keyboard focus should never be fixed on one page element.
  • A presentation does not depend solely on color. ADA color contrast regulations are essential.  Here is a ADA compliant colors checklist.
  • Focused elements do not alter content in any significant way.
  • The “Skip navigation” functionality allows keyboard users quick access to content.
  • The page titles are concise and clear.
  • Buttons and links can be clearly and logically identified.
  • Each page’s language can be identified by code.
  • Screen reader software can read labels and legends on forms.

Level AA Compliance

This is the second level necessary for full ADA compliance and is more advanced than Level A compliance.

  • You can resize text pages to 200% while keeping form.
  • Captions are available for audio and video content.
  • When users enter sensitive data, use an error prevention technique.
  • No matter where the user is located on the site, menus, and buttons are consistent. Try to eliminate redundant links to the same page.
  • Unlinked text with link is removed.
  • The contrast ratio between text backgrounds and page backgrounds should be at least 4.5 to 1.
  • Don’t use images when text can accomplish the same goal.
  • You can access pages on the site in many ways.
  • Clear and visible keyboard focus.
  • Code identifies the language of content with any language changes.
  • The user receives tips on how to fix input errors.

If you want your law firm website design to be an ADA Compliant website, be sure to contact our Law firm website designers. An ADA compliance checklist for websites is a great start. We can help to make sure your site fits all of these guidelines. 

If you need more help with the ADA compliance checklist for websites, be sure to give the talented team at Law Firm Sites a call.

It’s time to get answers when you ask, Is my website ADA Compliant?

Do you want to see your site with a new look?