Dental Practices Required to Provide an Accessible Online Experience to All
The U.S. Department of Justice has explained that any business that is open to the public needs to ensure that its website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This requirement is outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
ADA lawsuits are increasing at an alarming rate, with plaintiffs targeting websites that can’t be accessed by people with visual, hearing, and dexterity impairments.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s agreement with Rite Aid Corporation and Kroger regarding their COVID-19 vaccine registration portal is just one of the recent web accessibility settlements that have made headlines.
Unfortunately, it’s not just big businesses that are at risk of receiving ADA demand letters – dental practices can be held liable for web accessibility-related violations too. In fact, several practices in Southern California have been involved in lawsuits, most of which are first-notice lawsuits.
“Plaintiffs are targeting dental offices for profit, not because they have any intention of becoming patients, so they’re not incentivized to give the office an opportunity to address the accessibility issue,” TDIC stated in a Risk Management article.
As a first offense, you can expect to pay up to $4,500 for just one site visit from a disabled user. Then there are the legal and mediation fees that need to be considered, which can often amount to around $30,000.
Taking Steps Towards Website Accessible
Fortunately, guidance on how to make your practice website accessible is readily available from the U.S. Department of Justice.
This guidance outlines why accessibility is important and explains how to ensure your website can be accessed by those living with different disabilities.
- Inaccessible online forms
- A lack of captions on videos
- Missing alternative text on images
- Poor color contrast
- Mouse-only navigation
For example, not adding alternative text to your images would prevent those with visual impairments from understanding all the content on your site. Only using color to provide information will restrict people with color blindness.
Any forms that lack clear instructions and don’t have error indicators are deemed inaccessible too, while mouse-only navigation will prevent users with manual dexterity disabilities from navigating your site.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for Dental Practices
Because dental practices fall under public accommodations, they are required to offer “reasonable accessibility” to people with disabilities.
Dental practices are encouraged to follow the standards known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Cory Roletto, co-owner of WEO Media, recommends dental practices make it possible for website users to enlarge the size of the content on a web page – this is a good first step toward achieving web accessibility.
“By adding a visible accessibility button on your homepage, you can direct the user to an accessibility information page for options such as increasing the type size or contacting the dental office by phone to make an appointment instead of using an online appointment calendar,” Roletto said.