In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by Congress to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities both as recipients of services and employees. Today, there is a revival on the legal and public focus on ADA in light of the lawsuits and complaints against healthcare providers and business because their websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities.

The healthcare industry has already been introduced to such form of compliance in the form of HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Accountability and Portability Act of 1996. However, it seems that ADA hasn’t been completely felt.

Any healthcare organization with a website that’s not ADA compliant is bound to face legal risk, and it’s also a lost opportunity to work with people with abilities.

ADA & HIPAA: How Are They Similar?

Anyone who chooses to study the ADA’s policy profile will immediately notice its similarities to the HIPAA in several ways. Firstly, both laws are quite old, so their relevancy on the digital age is often questioned. There’s no clear federal guidance on neither law’s digital applicability and federal auditing remains bleak as well. However, non-compliance of both laws can result in serious legal repercussions for all businesses within the healthcare sector.

These are the days wherein patients are fully aware of their rights, so a healthcare organization must be concerned of risking an ADA lawsuit the same way they are at risk of getting slapped by a HIPAA lawsuit.

Patient complaints can be troublesome and they can be very aggressive when it comes to sending out their inconvenient experience. For patients with disabilities, it just comes naturally for them to be well acquainted with the standards set by the ADA. Their complaints can quickly escalate into a much larger scale and healthcare organizations might end up getting petitioned. There’s also a huge possibility of advocacy groups joining in and fight for the rights of people with disabilities.

If you’re a healthcare organization, you need to secure yourselves with the right plan should you receive complaints about your website’s accessibility. That being said, it’s critical that your website is ADA compliant right from the very start.

Why Healthcare Practice Websites Are Getting ADA Lawsuits

According to Title III of the ADA, all private organizations who offer public services, including healthcare providers, should not discriminate people with disabilities. In the older days, the focus was on physical measures, such as Braille lettering and wheelchair accessibility. In the modern age, however, the lawsuits are becoming more focused on the digital setup of healthcare providers. Patients have been suing healthcare entities and their practices because their websites are impossible to access by people with disabilities.

In 2018, over 1,000 website accessibility lawsuits were filed and there were more than 800 in 2017. A professional practicing in the healthcare sector needs to have a website where consumers can learn about the organization, their services and treatments, sources to health education and related topics, schedule appointments, etc. However, individuals with disabilities, mainly those who are deaf, blind, have cognitive impairments, and with limited movement, can’t access these features.

Healthcare organizations end up failing to cater to these specific group of people, and while there is a loss in services, the organization also ends up having to respond to legal action and numerous complaints.

How Healthcare Providers are Failing to Comply

According to the World Wide Web Consortium, there are more than 70 specific ways that a website can be accessible to people with disabilities. Below are the ways that a healthcare practice website can fall short on being ADA compliant.

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Non-compatible with assistive technologies

The only way visually impaired people can access web content and online applications is by using assistive technology like a screen reader. A screen reader can help in making the structure of a website more navigational, make formats and images clearer and non-distracting, and make content easier to read using proper sectioning and tagging.

Unfortunately, not a lot of websites don’t have this kind of feature. Websites that don’t have properly labeled buttons or main navigation can also receive complaints from people with learning disabilities.

Non-accessible multimedia content

The trend for many websites these days is to include multimedia content. It’s a popular feature that can help a healthcare organization’s mission and objectives more understandable and their content more attractive. It also makes a business more competitive, since multimedia can display the results of a procedure or any kind of service, testimonials, promos, educational content, and others.

People who are deaf and blind miss out on this feature if appropriate measures are missing. There must always be an alternative form of content, be it audio-only content, video-only content, text-only content, or a combination of the three.

Not adaptable for specific disabilities

The ADA encompasses a wide range of disabilities in several degrees, so a website must be able to adapt to a user by way of changing the appearance of content in order to make it more accessible. While this could mean a complete overhaul of a website, there should be an option to resize texts, change background and text colors, increasing or decreasing spacing, restarting or pausing audio and videos, and turning off background music if there’s any.

There are not many websites who are able to adapt to user preference, prohibiting people with disabilities from using it.

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Ensuring Your Website is More Accessible

Healthcare entities must always be reminded that lawsuits are imminent if they fail to make their sites more adaptable to people with disabilities. This also includes the aging population — the group of people who may have a hard time learning the ropes of any digital product or services done online.
It is a must for a healthcare organization to ensure that their website is ADA compliant in order to be able to assist people with disabilities in a digital environment and also to not lose business.

To ensure that your website is ADA compliant feel free to visit our contact page, and complete the form, to have your website evaluated free of charge.

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