Legal web sites need to be accessible if they are to be of benefit to all potential users. These users have disparate needs, varied access to technology and a range of skills in locating, assessing and using information from web sites. Some will come from non-English speaking backgrounds, and others may have disabilities. Therefore accessibility is a critical issue for site developers.
This Usability and Accessibility Checklist has been developed by the Legal Information Standards Council to assist web site developers create accessible, usable legal web sites. It should be used in conjunction with the Best Practice Guidelines for Legal Web Sites which have also been developed by the Legal Information Standards Council.
This checklist is not meant to be comprehensive. Further links are provided throughout the checklist to relevant resources. If you have any inquiries about this checklist please contact Sue Scott at the Law Foundation of NSW.
Best practice site design will include carrying out a needs analysis, user testing of the site and functionality testing before the site goes live. Ongoing mechanisms for user feedback can include providing an email feedback facility and online feedback forms
Further resources on usability
The Disability Discrimination Act (Cth) 1992 requires that access to information be provided without unreasonable barriers that exclude or disadvantage people with a disability. With attention to specific aspects of design, web developers can avoid barriers that may exclude some users, without necessarily compromising innovation.
These accessibility guidelines and checklists should be consulted as part of a siteÍs development.
HTML code can be validated using software that detects errors. These tools summarise any problems encountered. Editing and correcting non-standard code improves accessibility, by enabling a range of browsers to view the site.
Two popular tools that validate web pages in accordance with disability guidelines and HTML 4.0 specifications are:
Many users don't have high speed connections. Minimise download times by limiting the number and size of graphics.
Design for low resolution screens preferably 600x480 resolution. Where possible, keep crucial information in the top half of the page.
Users have varied technical capabilities and access to software. Use formats which are accessible to a wide range of users. Some users may have difficulties using files which require installation of separate software such as pdf files.
e.g. a document provided in rtf or rich text format is accessible to a wider range of users than a Word document
If your user group includes people from non-English speaking backgrounds, you will need to consider offering selected information in a variety of languages. Two important issues need to be considered: how you will reach this audience via the web, and how languages using non roman fonts are to be provided.
Providing information on a site does not necessarily mean that people will find it. Careful consideration needs to be given to how your users will find information relevant to their needs. The following are some ideas on how to do this. Given that search engines are the most popular way to find information, it is important to have a clear understanding of how search engines work. Further resources on how search engines work
7. Use Dublin Core metadata complying with the Australian standard to describe the site.
Metadata describes a siteÍs content in a structured way. Meta data is not visible to web users, but provides the potential for a search engine to carry out targeted searches. For example, use of the word ïcopyrightÍ in the subject metatag allows users to search for sites on copyright. Otherwise all sites with the word ïcopyrightÍ anywhere in a site will be retrieved. The use of recognised metadata standards facilitates effective searching and the development of gateway sites.
DC.Title: Copyright Online: How It Works
DC.Publisher: Australian Federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
DC.Description: The Copyright section of Australia's Cultural Network is maintained by the Intellectual Property section of the Australian Federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. It defines copyright, provides information on changes to ?
Further resources on metadata
A descriptive title increases the likelihood of a site being found because the words in the title field are often used by search engines to rank sites. A descriptive title also helps the user choose whether a site is relevant from a list of results.
<TITLE> Imigration and Advice Rights Centre - Australia</TITLE>
This will further increase a siteÍs chances of being found and may also be included in the list of results returned by the search engine. This assists users to decide which sites in a list of results may be relevant to their needs.
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="The Immigration Advice and Rights Centre is an Australian community legal centre specialising in immigration law. Tel: +61-2-9281 8355, Fax: +61-2-9281 1638">
This appears in a list of results from Anzwers as:
Immigration and Advice Rights Centre - Australia
The Immigration Advice and Rights Centre is an Australian community legal
centre specialising in immigration law. Tel: +61-2-9281 8355, Fax: +61-2-92811638
Consider providing a range of options for users to find information on your site
e.g. search engine, a site map and an index
When a site is indexed by key legal gateway sites, its visibility and accessibility increases. Contact these sites to arrange for a link to be made.
For instructions on adding a link to the Australian law index on AustLII, go to the Australian Law Index section of Austlii, select the category most relevant for your site, and select the "Add a Link" facility
Send an announcement to Legalinfo-online firstname.lastname@example.org, an e-mail announcement list for new legal sites in Australia.
Secretariat, Legal Information Standards Council
c/- Law Foundation of NSW
GPO Box 4264
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Fax: 61 2 9262 1660 - Ph: 61 2 9299 5621
Last updated: 15/10/99.