ADA Website Accessibility Compliance: How to Protect Your Practice

By Officite

The focus of “ADA compliant” websites has become a hot topic of discussion lately. You’ve likely heard of the issue by now, but perhaps you’re not entirely sure what it means for your practice. Is it really true that a few simple mistakes can land you in legal hot water? In this short guide, we’ll explain the basics of how the ADA pertains to websites so that you can take the appropriate steps to provide the best care to your patients, and to protect your practice from unnecessary litigation.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide, nor is it meant to provide legal advice. If you find yourself facing an ADA-related claim, you should consult an attorney. Nevertheless, by the time you’ve finished reading this, we hope to reduce some of the fear and misinformation swirling around the issue. First, let’s cover the basics.

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, sometimes AwDA) is a federal law passed in 1990 that aims to protect the rights of disabled people to ensure they are not discriminated against due to their disability. This is the same law that requires real-world public locations (referred to by the ADA as “places of public accommodation”) to be accessible to disabled patrons by offering accommodations such as wheelchair ramps and handicapped parking. The law is well-intentioned, and largely effective at improving the lives of disabled people. Unfortunately, however, the law did not account for the growing dependence of the internet, and did not provide specific language to cover any differences or similarities between physical locations and a website.

What do the Recent ADA Lawsuits Claim?

Until recently, many of these lawsuits had been in relation to actual physical locations. But over the past year or so, some dentists have received letters from lawyers claiming that their websites do not comply with The Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus have not provided the necessary accommodations for their clients. These letters often threaten legal action unless the practice agrees to pay an amount of money to settle the dispute outside of court. In order to prevent a potentially long and costly legal battle, many of these dentists have agreed to the settlement.

What Does It Mean to Be “ADA Compliant”?

If you take only one thing away from this guide, it should be this: as of today, there is no legal definition for an “ADA compliant” website. The current ADA regulations, which are enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ), do not specifically mention websites and their accessibility requirements. The DOJ has stated that official regulations for website accessibility will not be released until at least Spring 2018. Until that point, all we have to work with are suggested guidelines, not hard-and-fast requirements.

Although there is no specific language (as of the date of this publication) within The Americans with Disabilities Act regarding website requirements, there are arguments that can be made that the language of the law insinuates websites as a place of public accommodation. Because of this lack of specificity, different state courts have different views, which can range from:

  • Websites are not required to be accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Only websites that have a connection to an actual brick and mortar location must be accessible to people with disabilities.
  • All websites must be accessible to people with disabilities.

Immediate Steps to Take

If you are a current client of Officite, then your website meets the current suggested ADA accessibility guidelines. In addition, Officite will keep all of its clients’ websites updated to meet these guidelines without any action required by its clients.

If your website is not hosted by Officite, you should take a moment to familiarize yourself with the basics of website accessibility. The DOJ has suggested the WCAG 2.0’s ‘Level AA Success Criteria’ as the best accessibility standards to follow. Again, these are suggested guidelines; they are not currently laws. Nevertheless, this checklist is a good place to start. If you can check every box of the Level AA Success Criteria, you are in the best position to defend your website from any “non-compliant” complaints you may receive.

Next, it’s a good idea to run your current website through an automatic evaluation tool that will help to reveal some of the most common potential accessibility problems.

Further Complications

Even if you have checked your website against the suggested ADA website accessibility guidelines and run the automatic evaluation tool, if you or your office staff add or modify content on your website, regardless of whether it is written or visual, it is difficult to guarantee that these changes fall within the suggested ADA website accessibility guidelines. If you do make changes to your website, it is best to use a website hosting company that meets the suggested ADA website accessibility guidelines and have their customer service team make the changes for you.

Additional Information

For health care practices that do not currently host their websites with Officite, Officite provides a complimentary ADA accessibility review to help gauge where your website stands in relation to the currently suggested ADA accessibility guidelines. To get this free evaluation, please call 888-700-3971 between the hours of 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Central Time, M-F or visit www.OfficiteFreeADAReview.com to schedule an appointment.

As the leader in website hosting and web presence solutions for healthcare practices, it is Officite’s goal to help all health care practices prosper and remain equipped for success in the future. Please feel free to share this FAQ document in its entirety. You also may direct additional questions to Officite’s team of Web Presence Advisors who can be reached at 888-700-3971.

 

This article was originally posted on Officite’s blog on July 19, 2017.

Signs it’s Time to Update Your Website

By Melody Gandy-Bohr, Officite

Your website is your first impression in the minds of many modern patients, and you may never get another opportunity to show them the excellence of your practice. You only have a tiny window of time to convince them to stay — half of online users spend less than 15 seconds on a website. An old, outdated site can cause users to navigate away before they even get a chance to look at your services. Don’t risk losing potential patients. Instead, keep an eye out for these signs that it’s time for updated functionality and a new look.

Your Website Isn’t Responsive

According to Google, more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. Mobile search is dominating the internet, and if your website isn’t properly optimized, you are losing out on a large portion of your target audience. A website that doesn’t render well on a mobile device will cause a bad user experience for visitors and damage your practice’s SEO goals. If you haven’t already, upgrade your site to a mobile-responsive design to encourage site visitors to stick around.

It Takes Forever to Load

A slow-loading website can be annoying, especially to a generation accustomed to the instant gratification that the internet provides. This will greatly increase your bounce rate and create a negative user experience. However, your site speed could also be affecting your website ranking. Among the many factors that define its ranking algorithm, Google also takes site speed into consideration. Granted, site speed is just one small aspect of Google’s algorithm, but it is something that can be easily fixed with an updated website.

Your Analytics Are Terrible

The numbers don’t lie; if your website data is showing that visitors are leaving your website without engaging, that’s a clear sign an update is needed. Usually, this means that your outdated content or aesthetics aren’t meeting your user’s needs. A website that isn’t converting visitors into patients is not doing its job. Take a look at your website analytics and consider an upgrade to improve conversion rates.

You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Updated

There’s no shame in being a little neglectful of your website. As a practice owner, it can be challenging to find time in your busy day to spend on your online marketing strategy. If it’s been a few years since you’ve touched your website, it’s long overdo for an update. Website design trends and SEO techniques change often, which can leave your website far behind the competition. Your practice has probably changed as well. Whether you have new staff members, services or an additional location, you’ll no doubt have plenty to add if you want to keep your patients up to speed.

It’s important to remember that your website is an online representation of your practice. An updated, mobile-responsive website can go a long way toward improving your online reputation and reaching your marketing goals. If any of these points applies to your practice, an update could make a huge difference to your bottom line.


Interested in learning how Officite can help you bring your digital marketing up to speed? Contact us at 888.749.3778 for more information!

 

 

Scary Good Web Design Tips from Officite

By Kevin Rach

Beware, dear reader, and steel your nerves before continuing further in this article. The stories contained herein are the unfortunate tales of dentists and patients attempting to connect with each other through mismanaged and long-neglected practice websites. Let this be a cautionary tale, and take heed, lest a similar gruesome fate befall your own practice …

“It Came From 2005!”
It took almost half a minute, but when the dentist’s website finally shambled out from the darkness of the loading screen, the patient gasped. It was … hideous.

The unsightly configuration of mismatched and outdated design elements shuffled forward on two poorly constructed footers like an HTML Frankenstein’s monster. “Welcome to my website,” it croaked, its cobwebbed mouth opened wide, revealing teeth in much need of a good dentist.

The patient nearly gagged as the unresponsive mass lurched forward, oversized images dragging behind its lopsided gait. It was almost enough to make her pity the aberration, but there was no time. She had to escape, to find a dentist with a modern Web presence. After all, if this is what the website looked like, there was no telling what outdated horrors lay within the practice itself.

“In Cyberspace, No One Can Hear You Tweet.”
Dr. Igor had nothing but good intentions when he set out on his new experiment. The goal? Using social media to promote his practice and start generating referrals. He set up a Facebook page and a Twitter handle, and started regularly posting. All might have gone well had he not made two crucial mistakes — failing to integrate social media buttons on the main website, and never encouraging a patient to “like” his practice in person.

Dr. Igor has not been seen by a patient online since 2011.

Legend has it that on some clear nights, if you turn up your speakers and listen very hard, you can just barely hear the whimper of his social media posts mumbling about the importance of semiannual exams.

There is still time, dear reader. The horrors described here need never haunt your own practice. With the help of a company like the FDA’s official Web presence provider, Officite, your practice will be safe and sound with cutting-edge responsive mobile design, integrated social media and search engine optimization — the tools your practice needs to survive.

Visit www.officite.com/dental, or call 855.208.9124.