ADA Accessibility: What Does It Mean for Your Hospital’s Website?

In today’s digital landscape, data security and privacy protection are front and center. Lawmakers are enacting legislation to protect users, Facebook continues to accommodate calls for increased privacy and hospitals are allocating more IT dollars to cybersecurity efforts. These measures are intended to provide a more secure and trustworthy user experience.

This increased focus on privacy and security has resulted in increased focus on another type of user experience – that of users with disabilities who rely on alternate technology to engage with websites.

As places of “public accommodation” under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, hospitals and health care providers must make their facilities accessible to those with disabilities. Websites belonging to hospitals and health care providers are viewed as a digital extension of a physical facility and must also comply with ADA accessibility parameters. Though this interpretation has existed since 2010, increased focus on website security and a rising number of civil lawsuits bring this issue to the forefront of digital discussion.

Though digital ADA compliance is not black or white (the parameters are lengthy and ever-changing and the onus of interpreting the requirements is on the user), hospitals and health care providers can be susceptible to lawsuits if their sites are not ADA accessible.

While it is always best to consult your attorney to ensure you are protected from potential litigation, there are a few standard practices you can implement to make your site accessible for most users with disabilities. These are also best practices for boosting SEO, so updating your site accordingly is a digital win/win.

  1. Add alt tags to all images. Hover over an image on a website and you should see a pop-up box with a short description of the image. This alt tag describes your site’s visual content to website crawlers, which then serve the description in search results. Alt tags also describe images to electronic voice readers so visually impaired users don’t miss out on the file.
  2. Include audio transcriptions and video subtitles. Including video on your site is a great way to boost engagement; however, not including subtitles can alienate some visitors. Add subtitles to videos embedded from YouTube or Vimeo or include a transcript of video or audio files posted on your site for hearing-impaired users.
  3. Make your site easy to navigate. Confusing websites breed bad user experiences, regardless of the user. For those who rely on keyboard-only or voice-controlled navigation, a clunky and disorganized site is nearly impossible for the assistive technology to interpret. Organize your site’s navigation structure to make it easy for all users to find the information they need quickly and efficiently. While you’re at it, ensure someone using a keyboard instead of a mouse can still fully interact with your website.
  4. Add labels to form fields. Asking users to fill out a form on your site? Include a prompt before each question or program your forms to display the question in the form field to ensure voice readers and web crawlers can read the fields.
  5. Include logical hyperlinks When linking to content within your site or to an external site, choose the words you intend to hyperlink carefully. Instead of using vague language like “click here,” describe the content or link users will visit upon the click, such as “Download our marketing toolkit here.”

Though this list is not exhaustive, implementing these small changes can improve your site’s searchability and accessibility. If you’re unsure whether your site passes ADA requirements, third-party tools can help you identify improvements to bring your site into compliance. However, do not rely on any one source for protection. Consult your attorney and find a qualified ADA website accessibility partner to ensure your site is on the right track.