Medical WCAG 2.1 AA and ADA Compliance and Certification
Why Web Accessibility Matters for Medical Websites
Perhaps no industry is more understanding of the needs of the disabled population than the medical industry. However, while the industry places the utmost importance on offering the best care and access to its brick-and-mortar facilities, some healthcare providers have not been as quick to ensure a comparable level of access to their online presence.
In recent years not only has the demand for ADA-compliant websites dramatically increased but so has the legal obligation for medical and healthcare websites to adhere to the latest WCAG 2.1 compliance standards. This legal requirement for website accessibility compliance has led to an influx of lawsuits against medical institutions of all sizes, resulting in millions of dollars in legal settlements.
Are the legal ramifications the only reason to maintain an ADA-compliant website? Certainly not. However, getting your website ADA compliant shows your commitment to providing equal access to your healthcare services to all of those in need—regardless of ability or disability.
What Is Web Accessibility for Medical Websites?
Although these digital accessibility standards as outlined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were not written specifically for medical service websites, there are guidelines in Title 3 of the ADA governing “places of public accommodation,” such as medical facilities. The WCAG 2.1 revolve around four core accessibility principles: websites must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
Some of these guidelines include:
- Color contrast
- Providing descriptive labels
- Alt text for links and images
- Making information in tables accessible and easy to read
- Navigation of your site via keyboard only
- Indicating the focus for the user on the screen (pointers and lines)
- Size of fonts
- Headings and labels
- Captions for video and audio content
Who Are Medical Websites Helping by Becoming Compliant?
With over 60 million Americans living with disabilities, according to the Centers of Disease Control, medical facilities and institutions are at the forefront of treating or providing assistance to these individuals. It is imperative to extend this practice to the design of websites and mobile applications. Medical organizations that develop websites and other online tools in compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA regulations provide invaluable aid to persons with disabilities, such as:
- The visually impaired
- Persons with physical disabilities
- Persons with auditory disabilities
- Persons with cognitive and learning disabilities
- Persons with epilepsy
- The elderly
How Does Your Medical Website Become Compliant?
The approach for meeting ADA website compliance standards vary according to the depth and robustness of the medical website. The process can be time-consuming, expensive, and tedious. While many medical sites will run a scan to pinpoint the needed fixes and then lean on internal programmers to make compliance a reality, this manual process can take up to a full year to complete.
Putting your site on hold for a year is not an option for medical websites (or most other types of websites). You need a solution that can not only help you in the short term, but also keep you compliant in the long term: a hybrid programmatic solution. The approach we take at True Accessibility is to leverage AI (artificial intelligence) to find issues and administer automated fixes, while applying ongoing monitoring and manual remediation where needed.
Choosing a Manual, Automated, or Hybrid Solution
Medical and Healthcare Industry Lawsuits on the Rise
Of the nearly 5,000 Title 3 cases that were filed in the first half of 2018 (a 33% increase from 2017), over 20% were filed on the basis of a company website lacking the accessibility standards required under the ADA and WCAG 2.1. Some of these cases result in fines and fees reaching into the hundreds of thousands between settlement and remediation costs.
Consider the case against WellPoint Inc. When it came to the case settlement and agreed-upon remediation, some of the requirements included (by law) compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, form CAPTCHAs, PDFs, mobile device accessibility provisions, accessibility consultants, testing, compliance tools, dedicated accessibility information pages, required staff training, and much more.
With cases like this becoming much more prevalent, medical and healthcare institutions need to come to grips with the very real possibility that if their websites are not meeting ADA-compliance standards, they may soon find themselves the subject of a lawsuit such as this.