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Consider the Disabled in Your Practice Plans

When the Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano went blind, her admirer Pellegrino Turri invented a typing machine so that she could write letters. And thus began a story of innovation and romance that has left its mark for more than 200 years.

Lawyers can take a page from this history. The typewriter was born of a blind woman's necessity, but it became a tool for writers of every kind. By looking for ways to serve the disabled, attorneys may discover new ways to serve all their clients. It is not about disability; it is about accessibility.

Brick & Mortar Access

"Inclusive law firm design" may help solve problems people have with access to justice, according to Lawyerist's Sam Glover. For example, Glover says, some clients may not have the ability to get to the office.

"Instead of 'we validate parking,' your website could say 'we'll give you a ride or validate parking,'" he writes. "Even clients without any disability would probably appreciate being able to jump into a car waiting at their front door."

When designing for the disabled, he says, a law firm may consider a ground floor office would be easier on wheelchair-bound clients. But other clients will like it, too.

"Look for similar opportunities to make it easier for clients with disabilities to work with you, and you will find opportunities to make it easier for all your clients to work with you," Glover says.

Online Access, Too

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against disabled people in hiring, firing, advancement, training, and other employment-related areas. Disabled individuals also have rights to equal access to buildings and facilities.

For decades, these provisions were thought to only apply to brick-and-mortar stores. But a series of lawsuits, such as the case against H&R Block, has changed that thinking.

As the law evolves, attorneys may have to redesign their websites for disability compliance. Making a website voice-enabled for the blind could also make a law firm Google's best friend. 

While you're at it, ask Google about Pelligrino Turri.

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