Web accessibility has become a hot topic in recent years, made evident by the rising number of digital lawsuits filed by new plaintiff law firms taking aim at websites that fail to meet basic accessibility standards. As a matter of fact, we are currently on pace to set the record for the most web accessibility lawsuits filed in one year.
The American Disabilities Act clearly states that people with disabilities are entitled to “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations,” offered by businesses, and now, these categories have been acknowledged to encompass public websites.
According to the California Medical Association, ADA lawsuits have recently been targeting California physicians. So what does that mean for your medical clinic and its website?
WCAG 2.1 – Four Basic Principles
Since the ADA does not set out any clear guidelines on web accessibility standards, the responsibility has been taken up by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) who launched Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to help enable people with disabilities to participate equally in the Web. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 was created through this initiative, covering a wide range of recommendations for making digital content accessible.
For the most part, these are the universal standards that businesses are held up against when legally determining whether or not their website has made sufficient provisions/accommodations for their disabled users. As a result, the WCAG identifies four critical aspects of website accessibility that organizations must follow to achieve complete compliance. These criteria are perceivability, operability, understandability, and robustness. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these areas.
Starting with the most fundamental requirement, your medical clinic website must be perceivable by all users. In other words, users must be able to process information, which necessitates making allowances for those who require assistance, such as presenting text or audio. It doesn’t mean that every text should be read aloud, but it does indicate that the material should be compatible with screen readers and other assistive devices. Websites and apps that solely rely on sight or sound will fail the perceivability test.
All users must be able to operate your website and its applications using a wide variety of tools. Some users are unable to operate a mouse, which means that keyboard navigation should be available. Animations and media should be controllable, and time limitations for completing actions should be generous or changeable to enable users to navigate the website unimpeded. Sites and applications should, above all, be forgiving. Everyone makes errors. To assist all users, provide second chances when filling out forms or entering passwords, clear instructions, cancellation options, and cautions where necessary.
Even if users can perceive and operate your website, it doesn’t imply that they comprehend it. Websites that are easy to understand utilize clear, succinct language and provide simple functionality. When a user performs a task, the link between the action and the outcome should be apparent, and your site’s navigation should be consistent throughout. Forms should have a logical flow and have clearly labeled fields. If a user must complete a procedure, such as a checkout, appropriate instructions should be supplied.
Users should be permitted to mix and match the technology they use on your website to their own liking. This means that websites should function across platforms, browsers, and devices to accommodate personal preferences and user requirements. While website visitors should not expect a website to support outdated technology or obscure tools, your medical clinic should not impose restrictions on the technologies that your visitors can utilize. When websites specify which technological platforms are supported, this denies access to all of the non-conforming users. Try and keep things as simple as possible so your website and its content will function more reliably across platforms.
Making Your Medical Clinic’s Website Accessible
People tend to underestimate the complexity of making a website accessible for their users. Think about it. There are a wide range of disabilities, ranging from sight and hearing impairments to mobility and cognitive impairments, and if you want to accommodate all users, then you must make adequate provisions to your site’s content and continuously ensure that new content is accessible as well. One option for this is to employ a professional web developer who will do all of the hard work for you; although, depending on the size of your website, this could end up costing several thousand dollars. Another downside of this is that humans make mistakes, and you’re running the chance of a developer missing an element or more.
A better option has recently appeared on the market: accessiBe’s automated web accessibility solution acts as a more straightforward and cost-effective option. The accessiBe team has created a platforms that leverages powerful AI technology and machine learning to modify your website’s content to ensure that it is always compliant and accessible. In fact, their AI technology combs over your website every 24 hours, looking for newly added material that may be inaccessible, ensuring that you are never sued for ADA or WCAG breaches. Their interface allows users to adjust certain elements to their preference, whether that be pausing flashing ads or adjusting colors.
When modifying the website for your medical clinic, be sure to keep the four WCAG principles in mind so that you can minimize the chances of ADA lawsuits being filed against you. And don’t forget- as a healthcare clinic you have a duty to make both your clinic’s website and your physical clinic accessible to all patients.