The Legally Disabled? research found that the legal profession did not always appreciate the legal obligation under The Equality Act 2010 to provide reasonable adjustments.

Section 8 of the qualitative data findings suggested; if used appropriately and with a range of diverse end users in mind, information technology (IT), can be an enabler and improve accessibility and efficiency, potentially to the benefit of all.

Following this research, our reasonable adjustments guidance shared good practice recommendations, tips and examples from law firms and legal organisations that have successfully implemented reasonable adjustments.

The guidance served as a starting point and the intention was to expand on certain topics with further tips – digital accessibility was one of these topics.

When compiling the reasonable adjustments guidance, we heard that many technologies and digital processes in law firms and organisations presented barriers to accessibility for disabled users.

Feedback from law firms, organisations and disabled individuals highlighted common issues:

  • existing technologies are not accessible (i.e. not designed with the needs of different users with varying needs at the outset, which can then present barriers for disabled people)
  • lack of compatibility of assistive technology with an organisation’s existing technology, systems, and rules

Accessibility requirements of disabled users are often not considered when technology is developed, procured, or upgraded.

This means that disabled people are disadvantaged because they cannot use their organisation’s standard technology without adjustments being made to it, or they have compatibility issues when using it with their specific assistive technology.

At a time when the legal sector is increasingly being encouraged to explore the use of legal technologies to enhance legal practice, it is important that law firms and organisations are not creating barriers by failing to consider accessibility at a baseline level.

Instead, firms and organisations should use the opportunities that technologies bring to create a more accessible and inclusive profession for everyone.

We know that starting an organisational accessibility journey is not easy, and that there is a vast amount of information available which makes it difficult to know where to begin.

This guide aims to assist organisations at the beginning of their accessibility journey.

No matter how big or small your firm, in-house team, or organisation, you can make a positive change to improve disability inclusion as regards to the accessibility of technology.

Whatever firm or organisation you work in, if you're looking at purchasing a new technology solution, this guidance will still be applicable to you.

Note on terminology

This guide uses the terminology set out in our reasonable adjustments guidance, including, but not limited to, the meaning of disabled.

The term, technology or technologies, used throughout this guide includes, but is not limited to:

  • hardware
  • software
  • apps
  • video conferencing tools
  • audio equipment and solutions
  • case management systems
  • digital infrastructure
  • online portals
  • websites

Assistive technologies means technologies that support disabled individuals and those with restricted mobility or other impairments to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible.

Read a detailed explanation of what assistive technology is on Scope's website.

The Law Society of Ireland’s Technology Committee has also gathered a non-exhaustive list of software solutions available that are implemented in some law firms operating in Ireland.

Accessibility and digital accessibility are defined under: What is accessibility?

What is accessibility?

Definition of accessibility

There are various definitions of accessibility. The term can apply to physical and digital spaces, products, devices and services.

Broadly speaking, accessibility ensures that as many people as possible can access, use, and have the intended benefit of the product they are using. Accordingly, the product should encompass features that enable individuals to access it in a variety of ways.

For the purposes of this guide, we will be applying accessibility to digital technologies.

Accessible design and development seeks to ensure that a disabled person has direct access to use the technology or software unassisted and indirect access to use the technology or software with assistive technologies.

Accessibility does not happen by accident and requires deliberate and planned consideration.

There are two interrelated methodologies that are commonly used to achieve accessibility.

Universal design

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation, or specialist design.

The general aim is to improve the digital, physical and social environment and therefore reduce the need for ‘special’ provisions and assistive technologies.

Inclusive design

Inclusive design considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.

This means including and learning from people with a range of perspectives and understanding the specific barriers they face, so these can be mitigated.

Unlike universal design, inclusive design does not necessarily mean you are making one thing for all people. Instead, you are designing a diversity of ways for everyone to participate in an experience with a sense of belonging.

Many people are unable to participate in aspects of society, both physical and digital. Understanding why and how people are excluded gives us actionable steps to take towards inclusive design.

Google states that accessibility is a mindset, not a tick box to complete. “To effectively create for disabled people, recognize every single decision as an opportunity to build toward an accessible experience. Rather than thinking of accessibility as a checklist, approach it as a practice that is infused with mindfulness and empathy and can have a great impact on people’s lives.”

Where digital accessibility needs to be considered

There are many common systems, practices and processes in the legal profession where digital accessibility is important and should be considered:

  • document management systems
  • time recording software
  • billing processes and software
  • document signature platforms
  • document creation, drafting and review software
  • presentation materials
  • internet and intranets
  • marketing materials
  • digital and hybrid meetings and events
  • customer/client relationship management (CRM) systems
  • training platforms and content
  • organisational policies
  • data rooms
  • recruitment software
  • automated transaction systems

Who should be involved with digital accessibility?

It is often assumed that only technology teams procure technologies for the business but in practise, it is purchased by:

  • HR
  • business support and management
  • recruitment
  • diversity & inclusion
  • learning & development

It is important that each of these teams has an awareness of digital accessibility and incorporates it into procurement of new technologies.

Some organisations have an accessibility champion to promote digital accessibility best practice throughout the business.

They cannot work in isolation. Others need to have knowledge to ensure business continuity if the accessibility champion is not available.

They should also be:

  • linked in with senior leadership teams
  • visible to the business
  • involved with the project scoping process to ensure digital accessibility is considered from the outset

If your organisation does not have an accessibility champion, consider providing training to the teams who are involved with developing or procuring technologies or innovating in artificial intelligence (‘AI’) advances.

There are various companies who can provided specific accessibility training.

Alternatively, your team could start by attending Microsoft’s free Ability Summit or browsing HSBC’s Accessibility Hub where you can learn from leading experts on how you can embed inclusive solutions to your organisation.

It is also important to engage with your disabled employees or network groups when procuring and developing technologies. Their feedback, experience, and suggestions should be catered for in the design stages.

If you do not have a network or a group of disabled people who you can liaise with, consider consulting with disabled persons organisations.

Some organisations require final sign off from senior leaders before any major purchases or process changes. Therefore, you could up-skill your senior leaders by informing them of the reasoning behind accessibility and its importance.

You could also add in a mandatory requirement that accessibility must be considered (provided with evidence) to gain final approval from the senior leaders.

New technologies - how to introduce inclusive design and accessibility

Project scope

When scoping out the design requirements of your required technology, ensure accessibility is included from the outset and the project team has the skillset to deliver on this.

Before engaging with suppliers, you might want to consider:

1. creating a list of all assistive technologies currently in use by disabled employees

This could include:

  • dictation
  • magnification
  • speech recognition
  • mind mapping
  • text to speech software

This will aid discussions with the suppliers as you will be able to directly ask whether their product is compatible with use of the assistive technologies you have.

2. liaising with disabled individuals and employee network groups

This will help to understand whether they have had current or previous issues with technologies. It's important to learn from their lived experience to help shape future design requirements.

3. using diversity and inclusion (D&I) data collected

You can assess current numbers of disabled employees within your organisation to inform your design requirements.

Many people within your organisation may not have shared this information, so even if your data shows a small population of disabled staff, the actual number is likely to be higher.

Deciding what international standards are applicable and whether compliance with these is included in the project specification and contractual deliverables.

4. thinking about how existing systems will interact with the proposed technology

It is important that when the two products integrate, both are accessible and that the integration will not hinder overall accessibility.

5. considering upskilling your in-house developers

You could use an accessibility course designed for developers and coders.

Your team should have the technical know-how to mediate and rectify issues if they arise.

Procurement discussions with suppliers

There are international standards that list out accessibility requirements for technologies.

You can request that your suppliers comply with these standards and build these into your design requirements.

The two applicable standards are:

1. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The current WCAG guidelines explain how to design web content which is accessible for a wide range of disabled people.

The guidelines cover web-based systems and the WCAG website includes stepped guidance and examples of code to help you meet the standards.

2. International Organization for Standardization (ISO Standards) (ISO/IEC Guide 71:2014)

ISO is an international code of practice for creating accessible Information and communication technology (ICT) products and services.

It enables organisations to embed accessibility into their processes by providing guidance to standards developers on addressing accessibility requirements and recommendations in standards that focus, whether directly or indirectly, on systems (i.e. products, services and built environments) used by people.

If you are a UK public body, your websites and services must be accessible to disabled people. Within this, intranet and internal websites are covered by the accessibility regulations. You can learn more about understanding accessibility requirements for public sector bodies on the government website.

Although the duty is placed upon public bodies, it is important to remember that private organisations are required by the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for both disabled employees and service users.

If you are an international organisation, you will also need to review laws and best practice across jurisdictions.

Our reasonable adjustments guidance also recommended to ask your supplier whether there are any accessibility features that can be switched on within the supplier’s technology. If there are, these could all be enabled as standard (to the extent that they are compatible with the organisation’s systems).

To aid your initial discussions with suppliers, The Business Disability Forum (BDF) gives a summary of suggested questions in their Request for Proposal documents.

“Even when you find good assistive or non-assistive technology, your firm may not be willing to have that technology or to ensure compatibility with other systems, and then you still have a barrier”

Hannah Clifford, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, Disabled Solicitors Network committee member


A key stage in the project timeline is considering the implementation and roll out of the new technology.

Key considerations are listed below.

Support and educate

Ensure there is someone visible within the organisation to support and educate employees on the accessible solutions you have to offer. This could be your accessibility champion or IT training team.

If you decide to roll out training courses enabling current employees and new starters to learn how to use the new technology, arrange for accessibility features to be switched on as standard practice, wherever possible and ensure any training draws attention to the accessibility features built into the technology.

Remember, this could assist someone who has not shared with you yet that they are disabled.


Communicate with your employees about new technology, say it has been designed to be inclusive and built with accessibility in mind. This will help to raise awareness of D&I across the business and may build further trust with your disabled colleagues.

Make sure that any communications themselves are accessible. Browse The Business Disability Forum’s Inclusive Communications toolkit to learn more.

Build in contingency

Plan to retain some old devices during implementation in case employees cannot access the new system.

Our feedback from members is that sometimes a new technology has made existing assistive technologies inoperable, meaning some disabled employees could not work until that issue was resolved.

Retaining old devices enables these employees to continue to work while any accessibility issues on new devices or systems are rectified.

Encourage feedback

Encourage feedback from your employees and disabled employee network groups to ensure they can access the technology and/or report any issues. Gaining feedback will enable you to go back to your supplier to rectify any issues.

Review of existing digital portfolio

In addition to considering accessibility when procuring or developing new technology, you could also undertake at least an annual review of your existing digital technology portfolio and explore its current functionality in terms of accessibility.

When reviewing, consider:

  • discussing whether accessibility was considered for technologies already purchased
  • if employees have any feedback and suggested improvements
  • giving your employees training on any accessibility features built into products. For example, Microsoft have various accessible features throughout their suite of products and give short videos on their website demonstrating their use
  • reviewing all devices used by staff when considering accessibility of platforms. This includes personal computer, mobile and tablet devices.

To start with you could conduct a self-assessment to gauge your organisations current level of accessibility and if it can deliver accessibility consistently.

There are free online tools available to support you with this. For example, the Business Disability Forums Accessibility Maturity Model. 

Alternatively, you could instruct an external company to undertake an accessibility audit of your digital portfolio to review whether they conform with current legislation and that they are accessible to all users, including those with specific access needs.

“Technology is innovative and exciting and can be a powerful tool to create better inclusion for everyone. Importantly, it can shatter some of those barriers disabled people face.”

Demi Rixon, vice chair of the Disabled Solicitors Network committee

Common issues and barriers

We have heard some common issues and barriers relating to digital accessibility.

Example barriers are listed below with initial thoughts for some of them.

Scenario one

When trying to incorporate accessibility considerations, I often hear the ‘80/20’ rule.

This means that if 80% (typically non-disabled people) can use the software then that trumps the needs of the remaining 20% (typically disabled people).

How can I convince leaders that this theory, which ignores the needs of the minority, is flawed?

There is a perception that the 20% will require further time and investment, ultimately leading decision makers to ignore their needs.

This theory does not consider human diversity or the need for inclusive design – nor many organisations professed support for equality, diversity and inclusion.

The broader and more accessible you can be with your product design, the more inclusive it will be. This means that it can meet the needs of underrepresented groups and attract a wider audience.

There are many everyday items that were designed to benefit the disabled community, but which are now widely used by everyone. Inventions include bendy straws, audio books and SMS. Such inventions highlight the importance of accessibility and user friendliness.

Scenario two
We do not have that many disabled people who work for us, how can I build accessibility in for disabilities that I am not yet aware of?

Although declaration rates for disability may be low within an organisation, there may be people who haven’t yet shared with you that they are disabled.

Designing with accessibility in mind will benefit those employees and therefore a wider audience than you may intend.

As a minimum, ensuring your products are functionally accessible will help to future proof your organisation from a risk perspective and will also help to attract disabled talent in the future.

Scenario three
My software developer does not have an accessibility statement or cannot tell me if has any accessible features included within its design, what should I do?
If you've experienced this barrier and have an answer to it, we would love to hear from you.
Scenario four

We have tried implementing an assistive technology which is cloud based as a Workplace Adjustment.

However, our data and security teams will not allow us to purchase the technology due to data and confidentiality issues.

What can I do as an alternative?

If you've experienced this barrier and have an answer to it, we would love to hear from you.
We want to hear from you

If you have experienced barriers that have not been addressed above or want to share your workarounds, we would love to hear from you.

Please email:

Best practice insights

Beginning your digital accessibility journey can be daunting, however it is important to recognise that you are not on your own.

We encourage firms and organisations to share their insights and best practice to help others and to encourage greater uptake of digital accessibility within workplaces.

We acknowledge the differences that exist between organisations; therefore, you may want to adjust what is recommended to accommodate it to your organisation.

Submit an impact story
If you would like to contribute an impact story, case study or best practice insight, please email:
About the Disabled Solicitors Network

This guidance has been developed with the support of our Disabled Solicitors Network.

The Disabled Solicitors Network promotes equal opportunities for disabled people within the legal profession.

Anyone can join, whether or not you identify as disabled. You do not have to be a qualified solicitor.

Learn more about the network.