Sit back for a second and think about how much has changed in the last 20 years when it comes to technology. Our phones are used for most things, cars are smarter than we could’ve ever expected, and homes are controlled with just our voices. Now dial back another decade before that to 1990 and think how much has changed since then.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, it was obvious that technology was going to change, and it certainly has done just that. In order to accommodate those changes, provisions and amendments were made, and that’s primarily why ADA compliance is SO important on your practice’s website.
Before we completely dive in, here are two important blog articles that we have published on accessibility to help you learn a little more about what this all means:
- It’s Time to Get Serious About Making Your Website Content Accessible to the Visually Impaired
- Health Website Accessibility Compliance Deadline Set to January 18, 2018
What Is Section 508?
First and foremost, it’s important to know exactly what the rule means that you’re following for ADA compliance.
In 1998, the amendment titled Section 508 was created to require any organization that receives federal funding to make their digital properties accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. Because this applies to Medicare and Medicaid, most healthcare entities are included and thus have to abide by the guidelines.
In 2017, after being mostly unchanged for nearly 20 years, the U.S. Access Board updated accessibility requirements and created an easier-to-understand approach for those attempting to make their digital and electronic presence more accessible. One such creation was the inclusion of WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) to help make all websites accessible via a checklist that web developers could follow. However, just as Section 508 changed, so does WCAG. It’s important now for healthcare entities to understand that following the most updated version (2.1) is highly recommended.
Why Does It Matter to My Practice?
Now that you know what it is, you’re probably thinking about how or why it matters to your practice, and that’s a great place to start!
As we mentioned, times are changing, which means the way people interact with your practice is changing as well. In fact, think about 2020 for a bit. While your practice may have been operating in different ways, a lot of those ways involved technology or your digital presence. The adoption of telehealth, online check-ins, or updated COVID statements on your websites were all things that forced patients into interacting with your website more frequently.
If a patient is unable to access your website, not only do they become frustrated, but they may eventually give up and go to a different practice for assistance. Your website is a very crucial gateway to your practice, and must be accessible to all individuals. If it’s not, your practice is, in many ways, saying that you’re only catering to a specific group of individuals. More than 25 million people in the US alone experience disabilities that could hinder them from using your website as is, and that’s not a number you want to lose by any means.
What if I Don’t Update My Website?
For whatever reason it may be, you might be thinking that you can push this out a bit further. Or perhaps you’re thinking “what’s the worst could happen?” Either way, let’s get those thoughts out of your head and focus on getting that website updated fast.
If you don’t update your website, not only are you going to lose out on those patients, but you’re putting yourself at risk for a myriad of lawsuits, public relations nightmares, and quick, expensive fixes to your website. Instead of focusing on updating things now, you’re basically making things more costly for yourself in a number of ways.
While we cannot explicitly say what could happen to you if you do not update your website, we can tell you that there have been an increasing number of ADA lawsuits over the past few months that have caused groups to shut down their websites, lose contracts and funding, and ultimately have to salvage their reputation through costly updates. The short answer is that you shouldn’t even ask this question. If you’re looking out for the well being of your practice, go ahead and make the updates.
How Do I Know I’m Compliant?
There are a number of things that you can do to your website to get better in compliance, but the only way to accurately know that your site is meeting compliance standards is to routinely check it out via softwares that understand WCAG standards. With that said, the regulations and standards could change, which is why it’s important that this process stays ongoing. The more you update your website or have different parties touching it, the more you run the risk of losing that stamp of compliance.
In addition, we highly recommend consulting with your legal team or attorney to determine what standards of compliance you may need to meet.
At Practis, compliance is the name of our game, so we’re here to help. Learn more about our compliance offerings and contact us today to get headed down the right path!