Evaluating Your Law Firm’s Website for ADA Accessibility

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to ensure that public housing is accessible to everyone. But how does the ADA affect the public accommodations that have grown so vigorously on the Internet in the decades since the law was passed? Is your law firm’s website at risk of violating the ADA?

In this webinar, Lawmatics CEO Matt Spiegel welcomes Jeff Lantz and Desire’e Martinelli from Esquire Interactive to explore these questions and more. Here are some important points:

Who can be affected by website accessibility issues?

A wide range of disabilities or impairments can affect a person’s experience on a website. A person with any of the following disabilities or impairments may use assistive technology, such as screen readers or closed captions, to navigate a website and its content:.

  • Visually impaired (legally or completely blind)

  • Colorblind

  • Deaf

  • Physical disability (motor/dexterity disability)

  • Other disabilities (such as those affected by flashing technologies)

Significant uncertainty remains about exactly what needs to be done for websites to become ADA compliant, but website owners have wide discretion in implementing best practices for website accessibility. .

What is the case history on website accessibility and ADA compliance?

Two recent court cases have provided insight into how websites must comply with the ADA:

  • Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, No. 17-55504 (9th Cir. 2019) — If you’re selling goods and services directly on your website, it’s critical that customers with different disabilities can understand and purchase the goods and services available.

  • Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., No. 17-13467 (11th Cir. 2021) – While it was initially thought that Gil would formalize a distinction between sale and non-sale websites in terms of compliance with the ADA, a subsequent appeal decision overturns such a distinction.

Although there are still no compliance standards, the Department of Justice provided guidance in March 2022 on the flexibility companies have to make their websites accessible. Businesses should consider the following accessibility issues:

  • Color contrast

  • Color text indications

  • Alternate text

  • Video captions

  • Online forms

  • Text size/zoom

  • Keyboard navigation

What are the common ways websites violate the ADA?

The lack of specific requirements for making a website ADA compliant hasn’t stopped the DoJ from taking action. Common areas of concern are:

  • Images, buttons, and form fields are not labeled or have incorrect alt text

  • Pop-ups are not reported to screen readers

  • Tables are missing header information

  • Missing or incorrect captions

Are there guidelines for making my website accessible?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The WCAGs cover web pages, apps, and other digital content in the form of “success guidelines.”

The guidelines cover a wide range of topics, such as text size, contrast, navigation, website structure, alt tags, movement, and more. The guidelines are organized according to the following four principles:

  • Perceptible (captions, contrast)

  • Operable (organization and navigation)

  • Understandable (labels, user input questions)

  • Robust (coding tags)

An accessibility compliance checker is a handy tool to scan your website for any compliance gaps, like missing alt text or empty links. and should consider adding a way to report accessibility issues to the website owner.

Should I use an accessibility plugin for my website?

An accessibility plugin allows users to modify website features such as text size and color contrast to optimize accessibility. While such a tool can help users understand how their information is presented, it can interfere with screen readers, ultimately making a website less accessible for some users.

Final Notes and Takeaways

The first step in assessing your website’s accessibility is to determine the level of compliance that will be standard for your website. This may follow existing guidelines, such as WCAG, or you may choose to develop your own standards. Next, decide which of the most visited pages on your website you will audit first. Once the audit is complete, determine the process you will use to correct any aspect of your website that may not be ADA compliant.

While the flexibility of compliance gives website owners more choice in how they make their website accessible, some of the resulting ambiguity can make it hard to know where to start. Before embarking on a costly audit or remediation process, understand your compliance risk and make a strategic decision about your company’s approach.

To learn more about best practices for making your website ADA compliant and to see answers to frequently asked questions, watch a recording of the full webinar.