A website serves no purpose if everyone cannot interact with it.
If someone does not know the services you offer, cannot send an inquiry via a contact form, or cannot find information, he or she is not going to become your client.
You could be the most prestigious firm in the world, but an inaccessible or poor-quality website will not earn you new clientele.
Even if your website is up and running, it does not mean that it is not accessible to all.
Understanding the Basics of Accessibility
In this context, accessibility means your website is designed so that anyone, including those with or without disabilities, can use it with ease. People who have low vision or readers to provide audio output should be able to experience your firm’s site just as well as those that do not need them.
Most firms and other website owners for that matter do not consider accessibility. However, some of the biggest sites online have been targeted for accessibility lawsuits, including AOL and Target. In these cases, blind individuals were not able to use the sites, because the site was not built with accessibility options for those that had poor vision or were blind.
Am I Required to Have an Accessible Firm Website?
No requirement says a non-government website must be accessible. Also, in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there is no mention of a website being considered a place that must be accessible.
However, from the marketing perspective, accessibility means more clients are interacting with your content, reading blogs, and potentially calling you to retain your firm’s services. The more accessible you are, the more interaction you are likely to receive.
From an ethical standpoint, your firm should be committed to making sure your services are accessible to clients regardless of disability or status. Also, with the popularity of lawsuits over retailers and websites, it may be in your firm’s best interest to protect yourself from a future suit.
Lastly, if your firm provides services to those who are victims of malpractice or personal injury, you are dealing with clients that may have accessibility issues already. Therefore, you want a site that is as accessible as possible to accommodate their every need and show that you care.
How to Create an Accessible Website in a Few Easy Steps
Some initiatives have been put in place that standardize accessibility in a website. These efforts use back-end and front-end coding to ensure maximum accessibility.
1. Look at Page Titles
Making your site accessible, however, is not as complicated as you think. First, do an accessibility website checker to see what is not accessible on your site. You may find odd HTML coding that requires a fix or you may notice that your page title does not make sense in the URL.
Realize that people using screen readers are speaking into a microphone to type; therefore, your page URL must be something that could be expressed just as quickly as if it were typed. Having odd numbers or symbols in a page name is not accessible.
2. Are Headers, Headers?
Headers should also be bolded and assigned as headers. By doing so, you add functionality, and your headers will appear larger for those that need them. If you simply bold the headers without assigning them the proper H1, H2, and more tags, they do not enlarge.
3. Make Visuals Accessible Too
Also, don’t forget photographs. Your pictures on the site should have an alt-text that describes them with words. The same goes for video content. You need a caption to your video content, and having video content transcribed could be a good idea.
4. Keyboard Accessibility
Some have limited dexterity and cannot use a mouse; therefore, your website should be 100 percent accessible using nothing more than a keyboard. Forms should not require mouse clicks, and if people want to move from field-to-field, they should be able to do so with nothing more than a “tab” key.
5. Look at PDF Content
If you have PDFs on your site, all the content should be accessible. You can do this through programs like Adobe Acrobat. If you are using scanned content, realize that the scan is recognized by screen readers as an image; therefore, your PDF would not read aloud to the person viewing the website. Instead, you must use Adobe to properly tag your .pdf files so that they are read correctly.
6.Review the Guidelines
When you are ready to dive deeper into accessibility, you can read the instructions and tutorials offered by the Web Accessibility Initiative.
Accessibility is a Priority for All Firms
Whether you are a large firm representing Fortune 500 companies, or you are a small firm helping the little guy, you need to put accessibility at the forefront of your operations. When you are accessible, you are more desirable to potential clients. So, you are more likely to receive a return on your investment just by putting money into your accessibility.