Does your website comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Do you know what that means, and what it does take to comply with the ADA? Is it applicable to your small practice website? The answer to these questions and much more is in this video.
Your website for your practice does need to be ADA compliant. In fact, the ADA was first put into law in 1990, which was well before the advent of the Internet. Over the years, it’s been updated and improved for the emerging world we have now, including websites. Recently, the Supreme Court interpreted websites as places of public accommodation under the ADA, which means you need to have it available for people who are visually impaired, sometimes physically impaired, but allow people who have other needs to be able to navigate your website. So, how does that work? How can you do something about your website? And why does it even matter beyond being a good person?
First, it matters because a fine can be levied upon you, and it’s $75,000 per incident. This is obviously a good reason to motivate anyone to comply with the ADA.
Second, you want to make sure that plaintiffs’ attorneys are not coming around and suing you. Over the past eight years, starting in 2018, website lawsuits under the ADA rule have gone up enormously, exponentially really. Depending on which article you look at, you’ll see that 50% increased from each year to the next. And what they do (as a former litigator and we usually were on the defense side) is take one complaint, which is the basis of the lawsuit, and they’ll write it for a particular industry. They write one complaint, one that they like, and then they just go ahead and use it as a template to sue the next one, swapping the defendant’s name and website URL, going from industry to industry, say from chiropractors to dentists to orthodontists. They are efficient in that way.
I don't want these things happening to you. One of the best ways to discourage those attorneys from targeting your website is to make it ADA compliant.
You might associate ADA with a similar law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, and mostly physical disability, like wheelchair ramps, but there’s much, much more under its broad umbrella. For websites to be compliant, it must be acceptable for people who browse the web with specific devices, such as people who are blind and use text-to-speech readers but also people who have color or contrast issues. If the website is not accessible to people with those kinds of special needs, it’s not compliant with the law. Because of how a website is written, having a website that is not accessible to everybody will be interpreted as active discrimination. So, if healthcare providers are actively discriminating against people with disabilities, healthcare providers with those websites are at risk for being sued. It’s that simple.
No need to fear because this is something you can totally fix, and it’s super easy. With some minor exceptions, ADA compliance for private companies and others is required and definitely government-run websites. The good news is there’s lots of ways to fix it. So, how can you do it?
Since the ADA was outfitted in 1990, and it’s been updated over the years, it’s not 100% the best on website disabilities because the law is the law and we have a Congress that needs to act in order to change it. So, what they do is they defer a lot of their enforcement ability to the worldwide standards.
There’s a worldwide standard called “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” or WCAG. Right now, we are at WCAG 2.0. Some of those standards are mandatory under other U.S. laws, such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986. Under the ADA, they are a voluntary technical standard, but following the WCAG standards are the best we have, meaning in order to meet the ADA standards right now it’s wisest to follow the WCAG 2.0 AA standards. Even though non-compliance with WCAG does not mean non-compliance with the ADA, that’s still our best standard because it’s been updated over time. As you can tell by the 2.0 numbering system, they have updated, overhauled it, recently. The Department of Justice has come out and said that following WCAG will be inherently following ADA. So, that’s the standard that the courts are going to use. Let’s figure out how we can easily make your website compliant.
One of the solutions that I personally use on my website is accessiBe. If you go to my website, FuncitonalLawyer.com, you’ll see a picture of a “little man” on your screen. That “little man,” a website widget, is a screen assistance device from accessiBe.
Accessibe is an ADA website crawler, and it will go in and fix website errors on your website. All you do is drop in a line of code on your website header or footer, on the back end, and then it will crawl through, and it will specifically allow you to use this incredible screen assistance device on your website, so that a person, who needs assistance, while not at home or a person who doesn’t have screen reading assistance technology built into his or her own device, can access your website.
So, what does accessiBe even do? It goes through and scans/analyzes every element on each page, looking at images on your website. An “alt tag” is used when you hover over a picture, and there’s a little description. That is for people with screen readers primarily, so that they can read what the image is about if they can’t actually see it. Also, it allows people to navigate through the website using a keyboard or using a screen reader based on the headings that you use. So, believe it or not, when you are writing something on your website, instead of just using the Header 1 function to make your text look bigger, you should probably use a bigger font rather than using header settings because people navigate by those Header 1, Header 2, Header 3 settings, using screen readers. Another place of concern is links that don’t have proper descriptions. For some people, it’s not clear where it is going.
These accessibility tools, the accessories that I use, are pretty cost-effective. It’s only $49/month at this point, and it will help you prevent $75,000 fines or worse through website settlements. So, I highly recommend accessiBe. I use it on my website. You can look at it on FuntionalLawyer.com. It will at least deter plaintiff attorney lawsuits from coming at you, and it will largely help you comply with WCAG. Though there are some things you may have to do manually to be 100% compliant, it will effectively let people access your website in a more efficient way and that’s really the whole point behind the non-discrimination suits or laws in the first place, giving people the same level of access as everybody else even if they have special needs.