Access to Justice Online: Are Canadian Court Websites Accessible for Users With Visual Impairments?

Cody Rei-Anderson, Graham Reynolds, Jayde Wood, Natasha Wood

Abstract


Steps taken to make legal information available online have resulted in access to justice benefits for many. However, these benefits may not extend to everyone equally. As scholars have cautioned, the adoption of new technologies that purport to improve access to justice may perpetuate the exclusion of vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups from the justice system. This article applies this insight to legal information made available online by Canadian court websites and CanLII.

It does so through a two-part study. First, we used an automated testing tool to determine whether the websites noted above comply with accessibility standards. Second, after having secured research ethics approval, we worked with Access & Diversity at the University of British Columbia to recruit persons with visual impairments; these participants evaluated the same websites and provided feedback. Our results showed that while largely accessible, the tested websites fall short of best practices, presenting challenges to users with visual impairments. We recommend that Canadian courts correct the deficiencies identified by our study, that other online legal resources be tested for accessibility issues, and that future research focus on the extent to which online legal resources are accessible to other vulnerable or marginalized individuals or groups. Implementing these recommendations will ensure that the access to justice benefits of online legal information are extended to everyone.


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