Regulation of Medicine
Does Your Website Meet ADA Compliance Standards?
Healthcare organization websites, just like services, products and premises, must adhere to ADA compliance requirements. Otherwise, organizations can be slapped with a hefty lawsuit or fine from the Department of Justice. As the number of ADA lawsuits continues to rise, providers would be wise to ensure that they’re maintaining compliance with ADA website standards.
- Consider conducting annual ADA compliance training for all employees.
- Ensure that any patient documents hyperlinked within your website or given to patients are also ADA-compliant.
- Ensure that your healthcare practice has an ADA policy in place and all staff members are appropriately trained regarding it.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. This often includes medical practices, hospitals and surgery centers, which means that your organization’s products and services must be equally accessible to persons with disabilities.
While you may be familiar with ADA accommodations such as providing wheelchair ramps or allowing service animals into your office, you may not realize that the ADA applies to your organization’s website, too. Noncompliance with ADA website requirements can result in fines of up to $75,000 per incident.
It is important to evaluate whether your website is sufficiently ADA-compliant. ADA website compliance means that you may need to provide alternative functions and content on your website to accommodate those with visual, auditory, physical or other impairments.
In general, the Department of Justice, which enforces ADA website compliance, finds that the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the World Wide Web Consortium serve as a valuable resource for confirming that your website is sufficiently ADA-accessible.1 The following are examples of common adjustments to ensure ADA compliance:
- Providing closed captioning or transcripts for every audio or video file featured on the website to assist those with auditory disabilities
- Using easily resizable text with a high color contrast to assist those with visual disabilities
- Including text descriptions under every photo, video and PDF file to ensure that a blind user’s screen reader can identify the image
- Ensuring that documents (such as patient intake forms) can be downloaded in forms other than just PDFs for screen-reader recognition
- Limiting the use of flashing web content for those with sensory impairments
The best way to ensure that your website is ADA-compliant is to ask your organization’s website designer or information technology director to confirm, in writing, that your website complies with the WCAG guidelines. You should maintain this documentation in case you receive an ADA website complaint from a patient or government investigator.
- Monitor the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines annually to ensure that your website continues to be ADA-complaint.
- Document all communications with your website designer or IT director regarding your website’s compliance with the WCAG guidelines and maintain copies of this documentation in one safe location.
- Stay up-to-date with your state and local regulations, which can impose an even higher standard of accessibility as compared to the ADA.
Failure to make your healthcare organization’s website ADA-compliant can result in ADA violations and possibly even lawsuits. Healthcare providers could face fines of up to $75,000 for the first ADA violation and $150,000 for any additional violations, with state and local governments allowing additional fines tacked on. Although the penalties are severe, the frequency of such violations is relatively low.
Answers are provided below
True or false?
Question 1: ADA regulations apply only to my products and services, and thus website accessibility is excluded.
Question 2: ADA website accessibility means that my healthcare organization may have to provide alternative functions and content on our website to accommodate those with visual impairments.
Question 3: My healthcare organization should regularly monitor the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to ensure any adjustments made on our website continuously comply with the ADA.
Question 1: False. The ADA regulations apply to a healthcare organization’s premises, as well as all products and services, including websites.
Question 2: True. ADA website compliance means that you may need to provide alternative functions and content on your website to accommodate those with visual, auditory, physical or other impairments.
Question 3: True. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines published by the World Wide Web Consortium serve as a valuable resource for confirming that your website is sufficiently ADA-accessible.
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The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.