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When you think of accessibility and the Americans With Disabilities Act, you may tend to envisage wheelchair ramps, automatic doors, and elevators, yet few people consider the web and its accessibility. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the internet remains inaccessible for those with disabilities, with most visited homepages presenting some sort of web accessibility failure.
This statistic serves as a stark reminder that we still have a very long way to go before the internet can be deemed fully inclusive. Furthermore, as we continue to edge further into an increasingly digital world, the internet is becoming more of an essential tool with each passing day. The unfortunate truth is that those who are unable to navigate websites may find themselves excluded from a wide variety of products and services, which is why it’s paramount that businesses do what they can to accommodate all users – especially businesses in the healthcare industry.
Since COVID-19, many physician’s offices have implemented online services, including the option to schedule an appointment online, speak with nurses and doctors virtually, and more. Physician practice’s ADA compliance is absolutely non-negotiable, even more so in such a time as this.
Web accessibility in a nutshell
To put it simply, web accessibility is measured through a set of standards that are put in place to ensure that users of all ability levels can perceive, operate, understand, and engage with content on the internet. In other words, public websites should be accessible to all individuals, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.
For the most part, the two standards that you need to be aware of for your physician’s practice are the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, published by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). The WCAG 2.1, in particular, clearly outlines the level of accommodations and provisions that websites must make to remain compliant.
Truth be told, ensuring compliance can be a substantial undertaking, especially for websites that already have a large amount of existing content that needs to be upgraded and brought up to specifications. With that said, it’s well worth the effort – let’s take a look at three reasons why.
- Avoid costly lawsuits
These days we can all agree that web accessibility should be deemed a civil right for people with disabilities. Due to this, we have started to witness a significant increase in digital-related lawsuits referencing violations to the (WCAG) 2.1 and ADA guidelines from new plaintiff law firms.
In 2020, around 11,000 ADA Title III lawsuits were filed in federal courts and that number is expected to increase in 2021.The fact of the matter is that the precedent has now been set, and businesses that fail to make adequate provisions for their disabled users may be exposing themselves to costly lawsuits and fines from the ADA.
As a physician’s practice, non-compliance may result in the loss of contracts, the cutting of funding and assistance from local and federal government agencies, and being on the receiving end of costly lawsuits and litigation procedures that could seriously harm your profit margins. Just to give some context to the potential costs of a web accessibility lawsuit,
fines begin at around $4,000, but total costs can get up to $100,000, with settlements averaging around the $45,000 mark.
- Improve your clinic’s reputation and help more patients
According to the World Health Organization, approximately one billion people live with a disability. If your practice’s website cannot be navigated by those with disabilities,, you are automatically excluding a sizable demographic from your service. This is not an acceptable look for a health clinic.
To continue on this point, accessibility for those with disabilities is a pivotal issue for many people, especially since diversity, equality, and inclusion are at the forefront of social agendas. With this in mind, improving your website accessibility and taking a clear stance as an advocate for disabled rights will help curate a more favorable brand image for your clinic.
- It’s the right thing to do
Last but not least, as a healthcare provider, it’s your duty and your obligation to care for your patients by offering an equal and fair service to all. There should be no discrimination tolerated, and discrimination through negligence is no exception. Physician practice owners should do what they can to accommodate all patients, both at their physical practice and online.
Web accessibility is an important issue for all businesses and public websites, but especially for those situated within the healthcare industry. It’s imperative that all patients have the ability to access the care and services they need. On that note, physician’s practices need to be mindful of their patient’s needs and take web accessibility seriously in order to better serve them and avoid costly lawsuits and litigations.