The first ever world report on disability, produced jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, suggests that more than a billion people today experience some form of disability; that’s 15% of the world population, 22% of the United States population, and 14.4% of the Michigan population.
In 1980 the WHO defined disability as “an attribute of a person.” It was a personal problem. Recently they redefined it to mean “a mismatch between the needs of an individual and a product, service, or social structure offered.” The current definition reflects that there is a barrier at the point of interaction between a person and their environment preventing them from accessing all that is offered. Now it’s a global issue.
People with disabilities are often excluded from online digital marketing due to access barriers. Loss of mobility, blindness, deafness, or learning difficulties like dyslexia affect the way an individual interacts with the internet. If an impaired person can’t see what you practice or send you an inquiry because they can’t use a mouse, then they will not become a client.
What is Accessibility?
Accessibility in this context means that your website is designed to ensure that anyone, including those with disabilities or impairments, can use it easily. People with vision impairments may use screen readers to provide audio output or screen magnification to zoom in on part of your website. People who are deaf or hard of hearing need transcription for video content, podcasts, or other audio productions. Older adults, or those that have difficulty with motor skills, may not be able to use a mouse and only use a keyboard or touch pad.
Web Accessibility and the Law
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act is not clear about application of the act to websites. This uncertainty has led to litigation. Netflix now provides closed captioning on its streaming video to help hearing access. Large corporations such as AOL, Southwest Airlines, and Target were sued over disability concerns and have adapted their websites to give disabled people access.
The Department of Justice has not, as yet, issued regulations for website accessibility; however, it makes good business sense to make sure your website is accessible to everyone. There are good reasons to implement these changes:
- Clean design and text that is easy to read benefits all visitors
- Google gives priority to accessible websites
- Accessible design protects your law firm from litigation
- You'll be ready if there are regulations
Finally, your website represents your firm. Making your expertise available to as many people as possible shows your concern for your clients and those in the community which you serve.
World Health Organization's World Report on Disability
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative's Accessibility Fundamentals: Tools and Techniques
After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides legal content writing for lawyers. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers newsletter. Writing as Alexandra Hawthorne, she published a cozy mystery, Murder One in Midvale Corners.
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