Healthcare Industry Directly Impacted by Website Accessibility Laws
What is Website Accessibility?
Most people are familiar with the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects against discrimination of individuals with disabilities by not having access to the same goods and services as everyone else. In the past, this mostly applied to physical buildings or places of public accommodation where wheelchair access to entrances was required to be available. As an extension of your medical practice, your business website provides the public with information and/or online services and, as such, is also considered a place of public accommodation. With increased reliance and dependence on the Internet, the Federal government has deemed it necessary to invoke regulations, such as Title iii of ADA, Section 508, and WCAG 2.0, which states the same requirement for accessibility applies to digital information such as website content, online forms and PDF files, as well as videos and audio files.
What Does This Mean for Healthcare Providers?
Internet users who are blind or visually impaired use screen-reader technology to access information on the Web. This type of assistive technology uses a computer voice to read content on a web page aloud to the disabled user. According to legislation, if your website is not created in a way that is compatible with the screen-reader program, you’ve created a healthcare barrier for disabled users who are not able to access content on your website, and are thus discriminating against them by denying them access to your information. This causes healthcare organizations to be extremely vulnerable to costly lawsuits for not having a website that’s ADA compliant.
Meaningful Access Rule
Another very important regulation that healthcare providers should be aware of is the Meaningful Access Rule (effective July 16, 2016), which is referenced in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. It states healthcare organizations that receive financial assistance from the federal government and provide information or services through electronic and information technology (EIT) must be sure those services and information are accessible to people with disabilities. Most specifically, this applies to practices that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Because of all the organizations affected by this rule, it has vast implications for the healthcare industry. Federal Register Department of Health and Human Services, 2016
Lawsuits against Healthcare Providers
Recently, there have been a flood of lawsuits against healthcare providers in the state of Florida. Listed below are organizations who have been sued due to their websites not being ADA compliant, with most of the lawsuits filed in 2017 and 2018.
Borinquen Health Care Center, Inc.
Broward Community & Family Health Centers, Inc.
CAC-Florida Medical Center, LLC
Care Resource Community Health Centers, Inc.
Carespot Express Healthcare, LLC
Community Health of South FL, Inc.
Doctors Medical Center, Inc.
Fitness International, LLC
Larkin Community Hospital, Inc.
Larkin Community Hospital II, Inc.
Martin Health System
Martin Memorial Health Systems, Inc.
Miami Beach Community Health Center, Inc.
Miami Children's Health System, Inc.
Miami Jewish Health Systems, Inc.
Mount Sinai Medical Center of FL, Inc.
North Shore Medical Center, Inc.
Ritecare Medical Center, LLC
Sheridan Healthcare, Inc
Stew Health Care Systems, LLC
Wellmax Health Medical Centers, LLC
YOU FIT, LLC
Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County, FL (Jackson Health System)
How Can You Protect Your Organization from Litigation?
To ensure your protection from potential litigation, it’s highly recommended you have your website tested for any potential ADA violations that may make your website more vulnerable to a lawsuit. An accessibility scan can evaluate your website based on the following criteria, which is required according to WCAG 2.0 guidelines that affect healthcare organizations:
The website should translate images and text-based content containing meaningful information so it can be read by assistive technologies (such as screen readers).
The website should provide closed captions and transcripts of audio and video files so users with hearing loss can access them.
The website must be navigable with a keyboard only, not requiring the use of a mouse.
The website must define abbreviations and medical terms that may not be commonly known.
The website should make text readable by using headings properly.
The website should avoid color contrasts that make text difficult to read (for colorblind users).
The website should avoid content that could cause seizures, such as rapidly flashing/bright animation.
If you would like to have your website reviewed for non-compliance, our local website provider, PD/GO Digital Marketing, is offering free evaluations and consultations to everyone who responds to this email. PD/GO’s website platform has built-in technology that’s compatible with assistive technology such as screen readers.
For more information call PD/GO Digital Marketing at 888-354-4946, extension 1 or visit www.pdgo.com.