Healthcare Companies Should Lead the Charge When it Comes to ADA Website Compliance
In recent years healthcare companies have faced an increasing number of lawsuits due to non-compliance with ADA web accessibility guidelines for people with disabilities.
When healthcare providers are faced with the threat of legal action they often scramble to make their sites compliant, doing the bare minimum necessary to avoid legal and financial repercussions. But patients with disabilities deserve so much more than the bare minimum; they deserve the kind of seamless and convenient online experience that many of the rest of us take for granted.
Quick-fix accessibility redesigns usually fall far short of providing equal access to digital healthcare services for people with disabilities. This is a shame since online consultations-a time-saving convenience for many-can be a necessity for people with disabilities who may find it more challenging to get to a brick-and-mortar location.
More people than ever before enjoy the benefits of virtual doctor visits for minor ailments. Virtual visits take less time and often cost less than typical insurance copays. In the event of an acute illness, an online visit with a nurse could allow an elderly or disabled person to receive treatment hours, or even days sooner than might be possible if he had to schedule an onsite appointment.
When it Comes to Web Accessibility, Healthcare Companies Should Lead by Example
ADA regulations should be a concern for all kinds of businesses but since consumers entrust their well-being to healthcare providers, these companies have an even more pressing ethical duty to make their websites accessible to all.
The number of ADA Title III lawsuits rose 177% between 2017 and 2018. And because the public has an expectation that healthcare providers will be extra diligent about making their sites accessible to everyone, regulatory agencies may tend to be harsher in dealing with healthcare businesses when they don't fulfill this expectation of care.
The stakes are high for businesses. Financial repercussions for non-compliance can be harsh. First violations can incur fines from 55 to 75K, while subsequent violations can cost companies up to 150K. While larger providers may be able to absorb such sizeable penalties, they can be devastating for smaller healthcare practices.
Despite the Threat of Financial Repercussions, Many Healthcare Websites Have Serious ADA Compliance Issues
Surprisingly, in spite of powerful ethical and financial motivations to make their sites accessible, four healthcare companies have been sued in recent years by consumers with visual impairment who were unable to fully navigate their websites. One lawsuit filed against Tenet Healthcare, an operator of several large hospitals, was a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Americans living with visual impairment.
These lawsuits serve to demonstrate just how critically important ADA compliance is for healthcare providers and for the public they serve. And as our lives shift to being ever more web-centric, regulations are likely to increase.
For the Best Outcomes, Websites Must be Redesigned for an Optimal User Experience
According to a survey by United Healthcare, 39% of consumers expect online consultations with their doctors to be a part of their future. Online doctor visits promise ease and convenience for any consumer, but how much more of a boon could remote consultations be for the 61 million Americans with disabilities? Not to mention other conveniences that should be within reach of everyone, like online pharmacies that deliver prescriptions directly to the consumer at bargain prices.
In the United States alone, almost one third of professionals are living with disabilities. These workers are usually insured through the companies they work for, and expect to have full access to information and services offered online by their insurance or healthcare providers.
These numbers make clear how critically important it is for healthcare leaders to take responsibility and create sites that provide an optimal experience for everyone, including people with disabilities.
The cost of redesigning websites for optimum accessibility can feel out-of-reach for smaller businesses-prices can run into the thousands just to get sites up to standard. But some businesses, like in-home care provider VIP America have found a way around these high costs by choosing accessiBe, an affordable, automated solution that makes websites fully accessible within a brief, 48-hour time frame. Not only did the upgrade happen quickly and without compromising the design of VIP America's website, it goes above and beyond meeting standards for compliance by addressing the most common issues that people with disabilities encounter online, including problems with:
Menus: Menu navigability is a major sticking point for most websites. One analysis of 10 million web pages revealed that 98% were inaccessible to people with fine motor impairment. This means that anyone who cannot use a mouse would have difficulty navigating through the menus with the keyboard arrows or Tab key per WCAG guidelines.
Images: Only half of web pages examined have images with the correct Alt attributes, according to the same compliance analysis. Alt attributes provide descriptions of images for people with visual impairment, who rely on screen readers.
Popups: Pop-up non-compliance can make a website completely inaccessible for those who rely on their keyboards to navigate a site. If a site's popups are not accessible, they can make it impossible for keyboard users to navigate around them.
These are just a few of the most common accessibility violations that can make sites a navigational nightmare for users with disabilities, who may be forced to move on to another, more compliant site because they've encountered a pop-up that they can't navigate around or a menu that they cannot use.
Accessibility for All is Not Only Good Business-it's Every Healthcare Company's Duty
Healthcare companies that do not take compliance seriously risk losing the trust-and consequently the business-of their public.
When consumers entrust a company with something as important as their health and well-being, they expect greater vigilance and caring than they expect from other types of businesses, not just enough to get by. And this care must extend to everyone.
While the threat of lost business alone could prove a powerful motivator for businesses to make the experience of navigating their websites easy and convenient for all their customers, when it comes to healthcare companies, consumers have every right to expect empathy to be a powerful motivator as well.