Top 5 Practical Steps for Healthcare Industry Digital Accessibility

March 8  

First off, what is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with websites and apps for people living with disabilities.  In a practical sense, it means that websites, apps, and documents must be programmed in a way that provides methods for accessible technology to access this content.

Many people are just learning of the importance of this issue, but healthcare organizations have been legally required to ensure their digital products are accessible since 1998 due to the important Section 504 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. In this new decade, pleading ignorance is no defense. Below are tips on how to get started on becoming compliant.

1. Get Organized

Appoint a digital accessibility coordinator and provide a digital accessibility statement on your public sites and apps.  Also, consider talking with legal counsel about adopting (or editing) corporate accessibility policies and procedures to include the digital space as well as physical ADA Law.  These key first steps can reduce the risk of litigation and potential damages.

2. Generate a Plan 

With help from O8 and a subject matter expert (SME) such as Accessible360 who can work with your internal marketing team, compliance and risk managers, and attorneys, you can determine a proper scope of work to bring your organization into compliance. This work is often done in phases.  External facing (B-to-C) websites meant for the general public are often the first to be tackled, with other high-visibility sites and apps done soon after.

3. Be Proactive During New Builds 

For sites and apps currently in design-stage, bring together the design and digital expertise of O8 with A360’s Live User Auditors to catch issues before they are coded, preventing costly corrections later on.

4. Audit & Remediate

Audits need to incorporate certified live-user testing. While there are automated scanning tools available, these tools only catch a small percentage of accessibility issues while also flagging false-positives, causing wasted development time.  The U. S. Government, General Services Administration states, “Automated scanning tools cannot apply human subjectivity, and therefore either produce excessive false positives or – when configured to eliminate false positives – test for only a small portion of the requirement.”

5. Update Procurement Processes 

Much of what gets flagged during an audit is often from third-party content, which is content that the healthcare organization does not have direct control over.  It is important to make accessibility part of your procurement of software and digital services and to put pressure on your existing vendors to become compliant.  Review contracts with all of your digital vendors and require a live-user audit and letter of conformance to WCAG 2.0AA from each.

Bonus Tip:

Stay Accessible:

Remember, people and processes change over time and it is important to be diligent in protecting your current investment in digital accessibility and continuing to be compliant in the future.  Your site and apps are not standing still, and each change may contain accessibility issues.  While this doesn’t need to be overly costly, it does mean regularly training your staff, monitoring your properties, and ensuring that proper quality assurance processes are in place to review for issues during releases.

If your website is not constructed to comply with the WCAG success criteria, your company is exposed to several risks, including legal actions, user experience issues, and losing traffic. With 61 million Americans (1 billion people worldwide) having a disability, accessibility compliance is important for individuals to have an equal footing in the modern world. Simply put, meeting compliance is the right thing to do.

Accessible360, the nation’s leading court-certified Live-User Auditing firm, has partnered with O8 because this agency is a proven thought leader, has industry expertise in healthcare, higher education, and other relevant verticals, and is committed to providing accessible design and development for all of their clients.

“We’re thrilled to join forces with O8. This will be a big year for this topic because, on July 26th, we’ll celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act and this compliance issue will be top of mind for healthcare,” says Michele Landis, Co-Founder of Accessible360, on their partnership with the Minneapolis-based digital agency.

O8 will be hosting a Digital Accessibility Webinar in partnership with A360 on Tuesday, May 19th. Email [email protected] to register or to learn more.

Article Author: Michele Landis

Article Contact: Cory Docken, [email protected]

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