Making legal bots accessible

Build better bots is our series dedicated to exploring how to do legal automation well.

Build better bots is our series dedicated to exploring how to do legal automation well.

If you’ve ever squinted at a website or accidentally selected the wrong button on an app, then you’ve likely experienced poor accessibility.

And, for many people and groups in our society, it’s a daily challenge that affects how they use technology, and determines whether or not they can participate fully in the digital world.

In this piece, we consider what accessibility is, why it’s important, and how can you build more accessible legal bots.

What is accessibility?

‘Accessibility’ describes how usable a product or service is for all people, no matter their abilities or situation. Think of ramps for wheelchairs, or street lights to illuminate dark walkways.

In digital and online contexts, accessibility refers to the usability of software, platforms and websites for all users. For example, how does a user with a vision impairment read an article? How do they click the right button? And, though we often think about users with permanent disabilities, good accessibility helps all of us.

Street lights and ramps are examples of common features that improve accessibility

Street lights and ramps are examples of common features that improve accessibility

Why is it important?

Improving accessibility is good for everyone as it improves access, interaction and social inclusion.

Disability is more common than you think. There are over a billion people in the world who experience some form of disability (whether permanent, temporary or situational), and this figure is expected to increase in the future, driven in part by an ageing global population.

Poor accessibility is often felt most by vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of people. In addition accessibility affects many other groups, like older people (who may not be able to read smaller text or click small buttons), people with lower literacy or education rates, or people who use slower internet connections or older technology.

Beyond that, improving accessibility is really about building better products for everyone. This is because, as our CTO Kirill Kliavin recently wrote, accessibility is often just a question of good design. Creating products that are helpful, understood and easy-to-use for everyone is beneficial for all your users.

Making legal bots more accessible

  • Speak your user's language

  • Use bold visual elements

  • Add text to rich media

  • Empathise with your users

Here are our top four tips for builders to ensure your legal bot is as accessible as it can be.

1. Try and explain it to a five year old

The more you can speak to your users in their language, the more accessible (and effective) your bots will be. Your bot users are more likely to succeed if they understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what they need upfront.

It’s true, sometimes the law is frustratingly complex! But do your sentences really need to be that long? Can you cut out an acronym or two?

Josef offers builders the option to add additional context and explanatory text in message hints, so builders can anticipate common questions, and users can find answers they need while interacting with bots.

2. Make it easy on the eye

Fonts and colours are often an afterthought. This is a big mistake.

Simple, sans-serif fonts are best practice for readability. The best platforms (including Josef) offer optimised font and size options to maximise usability across different devices and screen sizes.

For colours, the best practice is choosing high contrast colours. Vision Australia’s Colour Contrast Analyser is a handy resource to determine whether your colour selections pass web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG).



Alt-text is optional for decorative images like this one, but essential for infographics

Alt-text is optional for decorative images like this one, but essential for infographics

3. Text foundations

If you’re using non-text content, provide a text option. This rule applies for all rich media, such as images and videos, to formats that can’t easily be read including PDF documents.

Adding text to describe images or infographics – known as ‘alt-text’ – is invaluable to a vision impaired person to help guide them through the content they can’t see. This text is essential for assistive technology, like screen readers, which audibly reads text to users with disabilities and impairments.

As video consumption increases, people are watching videos without or with low sound, making captions and transcripts helpful for all viewers.

When drafting alt-text, use text that helps the reader understand the meaning and context. For example ‘Jenny talks about saving time by using Josef to automate NDAs’, is better alt-text than ‘This is a video about Josef’. Also, you don’t need alt-text for logos, background images, or anything else that’s decorative.

4. Put yourself in their shoes

Putting yourself in your user’s shoes is important to understand how they use your bot and their potential restrictions and limitations. It’s crucial for good legal design as well as accessibility.

For builders, this means thinking about different groups of users, and where and how they’re accessing your bot. Exploring beyond your usual group of customers or users is key –- as is making sure you hear perspectives of people who are not like you. Listening to a wide range of feedback on their experiences will tell you a lot about potential gaps and improvements.

A note on accessibility at Josef

We’re pleased to say we’ve been working hard to make our platform and our bots more accessible, including progress towards having all bots on Josef meet  WCAG 2.0 standards for web accessibility. 

User-friendly, intuitive products are part of our DNA, and help us make legal services more accessible for everyone.

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