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Just like your brick-and-mortar business has to be ADA compliant, your healthcare website must also be accessible to people with disabilities.
The problem? The ADA doesn’t offer clear regulations for a compliant website.
If your website isn’t accessible to people with disabilities, you could risk lawsuits, financial liabilities, and damage to your brand reputation.
So what can you do?
During an unsettled website accessibility law environment, it is still possible to follow certain guidelines to make a “good-faith effort,” and get on the right track toward ADA compliance.
Before we dive into this topic, please note that Healthcare Success is not providing legal advice: To find out more about ADA website compliance and how you can protect your business, consider consulting with a disability attorney.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why You Need an Accessible Website
- SEO Best Practices That Support ADA Website Compliance
- How to Make a Website ADA compliant
Why You Need an Accessible Website
Today, it’s important to have an accessible website because of the following reasons:
- Potential Lawsuits
- SEO and the User Experience
The most important reason to make websites accessible is so that everyone can have the same access to health information and care. With an accessible website, you’re ensuring everyone, including people with disabilities, has access to your information. At the same time, an accessible website improves the site’s usability for everyone.
Some examples of website-accessible features are screen reader software, alternative text for images, and captioning or transcripts for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
2. Potential Lawsuits
As mentioned above, there has been a significant increase in website accessibility lawsuits. In many of these cases, plaintiffs usually cite ADA Title III violations.
Let’s explore what ADA website compliance means for healthcare and the steps you can take to improve your site’s accessibility and comply with ADA regulations.
3. SEO and the User Experience
Along with usability and lawsuits, building and maintaining an ADA-compliant healthcare website will improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine rank.
Here are three reasons:
- Better user experience
Providing frictionless access to online content for those using assistive technologies improves their experience and overall satisfaction. Google doubles down on this people-first strategy with its Helpful Content Update, which rewards sites that provide high-quality, original content and a positive user experience.
- Increased time on page
Google rewards pages with longer stay times and a higher search engine rank. Websites that are easy to navigate for people of all abilities lead to increased satisfaction, time on site, and brand loyalty.
- Happier search crawlers
If users with disabilities can easily read, navigate, and understand the structure of your site, so can search crawlers like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
SEO best practices (when done right) already support ADA compliance for digital accessibility. This is one of the reasons it’s very important to align yourself with an agency or website firm that takes the time to follow best practices.
SEO Best Practices That Support ADA Website Compliance
Here are some examples of SEO tactics that support ADA compliance for websites:
- Title, heading, and meta description tags
The title and meta description tags allow those with disabilities (and search engines) to quickly and easily understand what your page is about. Heading tags also help assistive technologies understand the structure of the page.
- Link anchor text
When your links are clear, direct, and descriptive, those with disabilities can better understand what you want them to do. Instead of “Click Here,” try something more succinct like “Read our most downloaded eBook” or “Learn more about SEO.”
- Descriptions and captions on images
Those who are blind or have low vision rely on screen readers to convey what is depicted in images, pictures, illustrations, charts, maps, etc. Adding image captions and descriptive “alt text” makes this content accessible.
- Closed-captioning on videos
Deaf individuals or those with hearing loss may not fully understand video content without closed-captioning. For multimedia to be ADA-compliant, an accurate text transcript must also be provided on the same web page as the embedded video.
- Accessible online forms
Those with certain disabilities may be unable to fill out, understand or accurately submit forms if they lack form field labels that screen readers can convey, clear instructions, and error messages that explain exactly what’s missing or needed.
- Keyboard navigation
Individuals with limited fine motor impairments may not be able to use a mouse or trackpad. Ensure your site is easy to navigate by eliminating mouse-only navigation and providing keyboard navigation capabilities.
Guidelines and Regulations: The ADA & WCAG
Along with the ADA Title III violations, the ADA discusses website accessibility in Chapter 5, Title II. Here, you’ll read why websites need to be accessible and some of the most common challenges faced by people with disabilities.
But since this section doesn’t offer clear guidelines to meet ADA compliance, most people look to the WCAG recommendations to make their website as accessible as possible.
In contrast to the ADA, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are straightforward standards that are easy to understand. They offer a handy Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) checklist for developers, which clearly outlines how to make a website accessible.
While these standards can help make your site ADA compliant, the WCAG is not the law.
How to Make a Website ADA-Compliant
In a perfect world, regularly monitoring the WCAG Checklist and making necessary site adjustments is the best way to keep your healthcare website ADA-compliant and accessible to people of all abilities.
But this is easier said than done.
We recommend the following:
- Testing your website accessibility here.
- Help remedy any ADA compliance issues with a solution like UserWay. While there is no perfect solution, we recommend UserWay as an added layer of protection.
- Learn and understand the guidelines.
- Implement SEO and UX Best Practices.
- Add a new accessibility statement page to your website. Even if your site is 100 percent accessible, an accessibility statement tells people that you are doing your best to make your website usable for everyone. The goal is to help people feel heard and allow them to provide feedback that will be used to improve your site.
The health industry is not a stranger to accessibility. Let’s ensure everyone benefits from ADA compliance by doing the right thing.