Law firms should publish images of the inside and outside of their offices to show how they can be accessed by disabled people, a report commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority has recommended.
YouGov was asked to do research with disabled people to explore the reasonable adjustments that firms can make to be more accessible for disabled people.
More than 3,500 disabled people informed the report, published yesterday. Nearly three-quarters said they are rarely or never proactively asked if they need adjustments when accessing professional services.
Two-thirds of the 1,270 people who tested standard and adapted versions of a hypothetical firm's websites preferred the adapted homepage. People felt the firm that adapted its website had more expertise in helping disabled people. The adapted complaints page was clearer and simpler to understand.
The report recommends that firms proactively ask all clients at the beginning if they need reasonable adjustments made. Leaflets and websites should include images of the office interior and exterior, to help disabled people plan and make them less anxious about what the office environment might be like. Verbal or written information should be provided at the start on whether there is step-free access, lifts and nearby parking spaces.
Other recommendations include providing contact details for someone in the firm for disabled people to discuss any issues. A disabled charity's accreditation should be highlighted on the homepage of the firm's website. Colour should be used in the layout and presentation of information to make the firm appear warmer and more inviting; dense text should be broken up; the text font should be at least 14 points in size; and screen readers should be able to read images.
SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: 'All solicitors will recognise that disabled people often have multiple, complex and varying needs that may not be immediately obvious. Accessing legal services can be complex enough without facing such added challenges, which is why it is so important that firms do all they reasonably can to help people overcome any difficulties.
'This research found that while some firms are clearly good at this, others have more to do. The insights should help firms to make the changes needed to support hundreds of thousands of people to access professional legal support when they need it.'
The report was commissioned after the Competition and Markets Authority reported in 2016 that a major barrier to accessing and understanding legal services was a general lack of accessibility. The SRA says it will promote YouGov's recommendations to firms.