Ensure that your healthcare organization’s website meets ADA compliance and is accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to protect individuals with disabilities from segregation and exclusion. When it was signed into law in 1990, however, the world wide web was just getting started and Google had yet to be invented. Now, the internet is an essential part of our daily lives and is one of our primary vehicles of communication.
As a result, the ADA has expanded to include websites in its regulations concerning discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local governments (Title II), as well as public accommodations and commercial facilities (Title III). For healthcare organizations, this means there is now an obligation to ensure that all websites are accessible to everyone.
“We often think about disabilities in the context of not being able to do something physically, like walking without assistance, but it is about much more than that,” says Eric Jackson, vice president of creative services at True North Custom. “There are numerous disabilities that affect a large portion of the world. Since health care is something that we will all need at some point, it is important to make sure that as many people as possible know what your facility or organization has to offer.”
Jackson adds that there can also be legal ramifications for those who remain noncompliant with ADA regulations. While several laws have been introduced to help cut down on more frivolous, ADA-related lawsuits, the number of website accessibility-related lawsuits continues to rise. In fact, there were over 2,200 lawsuits filed in 2018 concerning ADA website compliance—nearly triple the amount of cases filed in 2017—and the majority of these lawsuits targeted government agencies, large corporations and healthcare organizations.
Defining ADA Compliance in the Digital Realm
In order to create a website that is compliant with ADA regulations, you first have to ask yourself: “What makes a website accessible?”
That, in of itself, is not defined by the ADA. However, the Department of Justice and many courts have used the 38 Level AA success criteria published in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to help make that determination.
The WCAG 2.0 can be broken into four overarching categories:
- Perceivable: The content on the website should be available to everyone.
- Operable: The interface of the website does not require certain physical capabilities that a person with disabilities may not have.
- Understandable: Both the website’s interface and content should be easy to grasp and comprehend.
- Robust: The website can be accessed through a variety of technologies and internet browsers.
While websites are not required to meet all 38 criterion (again, these are only guidelines—not laws), you should strive to be as compliant as possible with these recommendations to ensure that your healthcare organization's digital presence is not unwelcoming toward people with disabilities.
Creating an ADA-Compliant Website: A Case Study
True North Custom recently created an ADA-compliant content hub for a large health system in North Texas.
In addition to manually evaluating the website using the criteria set by the WCAG 2.0, Jackson says his team used three different online tools that helped scan the website, highlight any web accessibility-related issues and propose recommendations. Jackson says he also installed a WordPress plug-in designed to offer consumers additional accessibility options.
While ADA compliance can seem very technical and require some additional research, Jackson notes that the core elements of web accessibility are factors that healthcare organizations should already be taking into account when developing quality online content.
“Good design principles matter,” Jackson says. “Are your fonts readable? Do the colors on the page offer enough contrast? The challenges you face in making sure that a website is ADA compliant are the same as with any project. Increased accessibility translates to a better user experience, and the goal should always be to create the best user experience possible.”
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