Let’s say you own a clinic. You get to serve hundreds to thousands of people over the years, and you love what you do because you’re making an impact and changing lives. You see those with hypertension, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, thyroid diseases, etc. You don’t discriminate who you help! Imagine someone with a walking disability, difficulty hearing or trouble seeing came into your clinic, would you turn them away? Of course you wouldn’t! You see them as someone needing help, and you have certain accommodations to make sure they still get the care they deserve.
You understand that you need to provide accommodations for people with disabilities at your clinic, but are you providing the same accommodations to those with disabilities on your website?
According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 54% of adults living with a disability use the internet, compared to 81% of adults without a disability (1). What’s critical to understand is once both groups are using the internet, 78% of those with a disability will look up health-related information, compared to 80% of those without a disability (2). Basically, once both groups are on the internet, they have an equal chance of researching health-related information! To make this more concrete, of the 61 million Americans that have a disability, 25 million Americans are researching health-related information online.
How are these accommodations for those with disabilities enforced? Enter the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a law that essentially states if you are a publicly accessible business, you must provide modifications for people with disabilities to have the same access and opportunity as someone without a disability (3). Simply put, ADA gives everyone an even playing field. However, although the concept of accommodating those with disabilities is discussed in the ADA, it does not give specific guidelines when it comes to internet content accessibility to those with disabilities.
What happens If your website isn’t ADA compliant? Unfortunately, legal action can be taken against your business. Should you be concerned about making sure your website is ADA compliant? Absolutely. From 2017 to 2018, the number of website-related ADA lawsuits increased by 177%, from 814 lawsuits to 2,258 (4). That’s a huge increase!
How do you make sure your website is accessible then? The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) do provide very specific guidelines to ensure your website is accessible (5). Despite being more specific, in 2019, the Department of Justice declined to use the WCAG as the legal standard for accessibility, and believes the ADA still applies to websites. Given the lack of specificity in the ADA, it is best to follow the WCAG for the specifics. However, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do this on your own. This is a job you want to outsource.
Here are some websites that can make sure your website is ADA compliant!
Please take this seriously, as it could possibly lead to a lawsuit to your business, which nobody wants. The other reason this should be taken seriously is beyond law; it’s because I do believe it really is the right thing to do. Those with disabilities do deserve equal treatment and access to important information regarding their health, so make your website ADA compliant so you can help more people!
3) American with Disabilities Act: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-104/pdf/STATUTE-104-Pg327.pdf
5) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/