Top 5 Practical Steps for Healthcare Industry Digital Accessibility

Healthcare Industry Digital Accessibility

First off, what is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with websites and apps for people living with disabilities.  In a practical sense, it means that websites, apps, and documents must be programmed in a way that provides methods for accessible technology to access this content.


Many people are just learning of the importance of this issue, but healthcare organizations have been legally required to ensure their digital products are accessible since 1998 due to the important Section 504 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. In this new decade, pleading ignorance is no defense. Below are tips on how to get started on becoming compliant.

Get Organized

Appoint a digital accessibility coordinator and provide a digital accessibility statement on your public sites and apps.  Also, consider talking with legal counsel about adopting (or editing) corporate accessibility policies and procedures to include the digital space as well as physical ADA Law.  These key first steps can reduce the risk of litigation and potential damages.

Generate a Plan

With help from O8 and a subject matter expert (SME) such as Accessible360 who can work with your internal marketing team, compliance and risk managers, and attorneys, you can determine a proper scope of work to bring your organization into compliance. This work is often done in phases.  External facing (B-to-C) websites meant for the general public are often the first to be tackled, with other high-visibility sites and apps done soon after.

Be Proactive

For sites and apps currently in the design-stage, bring together the design and digital expertise of O8 with A360’s Live User Auditors to catch issues before they are coded, preventing costly corrections later on.

Audit & Remediate

Audits need to incorporate certified live-user testing. While there are automated scanning tools available, these tools only catch a small percentage of accessibility issues while also flagging false-positives, causing wasted development time.  The U. S. Government, General Services Administration states, “Automated scanning tools cannot apply human subjectivity, and therefore either produce excessive false positives or – when configured to eliminate false positives – test for only a small portion of the requirement.”

Update Procurement Processes

Much of what gets flagged during an audit is often from third-party content, which is content that the healthcare organization does not have direct control over.  It is important to make accessibility part of your procurement of software and digital services and to put pressure on your existing vendors to become compliant. Review contracts with all of your digital vendors and require a live-user audit and letter of conformance to WCAG 2.0AA from each.

Bonus Tip: Stay Accessible

Remember, people and processes change over time and it is important to be diligent in protecting your current investment in digital accessibility and continuing to be compliant in the future.  Your site and apps are not standing still, and each change may contain accessibility issues. While this doesn’t need to be overly costly, it does mean regularly training your staff, monitoring your properties, and ensuring that proper quality assurance processes are in place to review for issues during releases.

If your website is not constructed to comply with the WCAG success criteria, your company is exposed to several risks, including legal actions, user experience issues, and losing traffic. With 61 million Americans (1 billion people worldwide) having a disability, accessibility compliance is important for individuals to have an equal footing in the modern world. Simply put, meeting compliance is the right thing to do. 

Accessible360, the nation’s leading court-certified Live-User Auditing firm, has partnered with O8 because this agency is a proven thought leader, has industry expertise in healthcare, higher education, and other relevant verticals, and is committed to providing accessible design and development for all of their clients. 

“We’re thrilled to join forces with O8. This will be a big year for this topic because, on July 26th, we’ll celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act and this compliance issue will be top of mind for healthcare,” says Michele Landis, Co-Founder of Accessible360, on their partnership with the Minneapolis-based digital agency.

 

Guest Blog Post Written By: Michele Landis, Accessible360

Is your website ADA compliant?

The Dangers of ADA Non-Compliance

gavel & keyboard

ADA History

In 1990, the United States passed a comprehensive civil rights law that was enacted to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination called The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is the reason we have things like disabled parking requirements, service counter height requirements, and wheelchair ramp mandates in building codes. This act came one year before the first web page went live on August 6, 1991. Since this time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been tasked to keep up with the ever-evolving world wide web, updating ADA compliance constantly. 

ADA Compliance + Websites

So, what happens when a business fails to meet the changing rules and regulations? Let’s check out what’s happening in one New York industry: art galleries. In 2018, over 75 galleries were sued for not maintaining ADA compliant websites. This trend is only growing. In the U.S., the number of federal website accessibility lawsuits reached 2.2K in 2018. That works out to a 177% increase from 2017. This tremendous increase in compliance cases is in large part a result of vague descriptions of the ADA. However, regardless of why a website is not compliant, the penalties can be steep.

Comparison chart of ADA Compliance lawsuits from 2017 vs. 2018

ADA Non-Compliance Penalties

Fines

Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $75,000 for a single ADA violation, raising that fine to $150,000 for additional violations. This is a pretty large bill for most businesses and can have devastating effects.

Comparing the cost of upgrading your website to a hefty ADA fine and suddenly affordable website migrations don’t seem expensive in the least. When hiring a web developer, it is important to choose a company that understands the laws in your state and knows how to ensure a compliant migration. 

Lawsuits

The ADA states, "No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation."

As the Internet has become a major source of goods and services, many courts have shifted to include websites as places of “public accommodation”. This interpretation has varied among courts, resulting in a circuit split regarding whether a website must have a brick-and-mortar store tie, such as a physical restaurant, to fall within the scope of the ADA. 

The only way to avoid the negative outcomes of neglecting to meet ADA standards is to maintain the compliance of your site.

Equality

Beyond the financial risk of ADA compliance, one must ask the moral question: why should resources and information be inaccessible to select groups? ADA compliance is centered around providing impartial services to all citizens, regardless of their ability. Making websites accessible to all only takes a few simple adjustments, but can make a huge difference in people’s lives.

Solutions

Guidelines for maintaining ADA compliance are posted here

Beyond this, our web developers here at O8 offer an extensive audit of your website to determine if it meets ADA compliance criteria. We assess if the site provides the best possible user experience for people using assistive technology.

Our audit process will identify any and all issues that might be affecting website navigation for people using assistive technology and offer detailed recommendations on how to address each one. 

To get started on making your site accessible to everyone, schedule a call today!