For doctors and medical providers, concerns about compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) have historically applied only to buildings and physical structures. Increasingly, though, there are questions about what makes a website accessible to people with disabilities and what the laws and requirements might look like if adopted under the ADA.
Foster Web Marketing has been closely following news and developments about website accessibility and ADA compliance for many years. We have plans in place to continue to improve accessibility on our websites and meet requirements for compliance in the future, whatever they may be.
For now, here is what medical practices should know about ADA compliance online.
There Are No Laws or Current Standards for “ADA Compliance” on Medical Websites
There are currently no laws or requirements under the ADA that mandate an accessible website. An attempt to expand the ADA to websites was withdrawn, and it is unlikely to come up again under the current administration.
The problem is that user expectations and online technology change very quickly. While there are some standards that have been proposed by the IT industry and groups representing people with disabilities, there is no consensus on exactly what those standards should be. Additionally, some of the standards that have been developed for potential government adoption in the past are now outdated.
We would love to be able to say we offer “100% ADA-compliant websites,” but the truth is that there is currently no such thing. Fully implementing everything we think might be needed in the future will require hundreds upon hundreds of hours to develop and deploy for all our clients. While we have a long-term strategy for our websites and our clients, there is a lot that must wait until we reach a point of better regulatory certainty.
What You Can Do Right Now to Make Your Medical Website More Accessible
Foster Web Marketing has implemented some basic accessibility features for our websites and will continue to expand accessibility options as development continues. For now, we recommend that medical providers take a thoughtful look at their websites and take steps to:
- Tag images with descriptive text. “Alt tags” are short text descriptions added to the code of your page that help screen readers (and Google crawlers) understand the images on your website.
- Transcribe audio and video. Adding a text transcription for any audio or video elements on your site is an easy way to help users with disabilities access more information on the page. YouTube even allows you to add subtitles and closed captioning to videos.
- Go for contrast. Low-contrast color schemes can make it difficult for users with sight impairments to distinguish between foreground and background and pick out text on buttons and forms. By using a higher-contrast palette, you can increase accessibility and usability on your site.
- Keep navigation clear and consistent. For some users with disabilities, navigating through a website and finding the content they’re looking for can be a challenging process. Consistent navigation and clear pointers to important content help all users move through your website more quickly and efficiently.
- Make your code more accessible. Little touches on the backend of your website help assistive devices and services read your page better. For example, adding the page language to your code and descriptors of non-text elements makes it much easier for screen readers to serve your content to users.
If you have questions about making your website more accessible for your patients and potential patients, give us a call at 888.886.0939. Or, if you want to start making changes now, you can also meet with our team in a free website design consultation—just let us know that you’re interested in improving accessibility!