The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turned 30 years old in the summer of 2020. Since its passing, we have seen a host of accessibility improvements such as ramps, braille on elevator buttons, and service animals allowed in restaurants and on planes.
Accessibility, however, applies to more than just physical spaces. It is also vitally important in the digital world, including healthcare and private practice websites. Fortunately, adaptive digital technology has advanced considerably, making web content more accessible than ever before. This includes screen and text readers, speech input software, screen magnifying software, and more.
Over the last three decades, your patients have become increasingly dependent on accessing the digital world, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified that need. People with varying disabilities may access your website on a given day, but you need to make sure your website allows them to find what they need.
Shadi Abou-Zahra, a strategy and technology specialist at the World Wide Web Consortium, advises that ADA authority on private practices is murky, but it’s still worth having a compliant website. Making your website more user friendly not only helps those with disabilities – estimated to be about 15 to 20 percent of the population – but all of your website’s visitors, he said in a recent video.
Updating your website can be quick and doesn’t have to be expensive. Still, it will take some knowledge of your website’s inner workings. If you outsource this work completely, it will be important for you to involve that person (or company) when making decisions and changes.
The ADA offers a preliminary checklist for a quick audit of your website. Here are seven simple tips that can help your patients more easily navigate your website and its content:
- Include audio descriptions or captions on videos.
- Use descriptive language with associated links, not “click here.”
- Images, charts, and tables should have descriptive text, like alt text.
- Use text-based versions of the documents for download, like HTML, RTF, or a Word processing format.
- Have a “Skip Navigation” option, so screen readers don’t repeat all the content in the navigation bar on every page.
- Include a website accessibility policy that is easily located on your website.
- Get feedback from a variety or groups representing people with a variety of disabilities.
There is much more you can do. The best-known guidance, which also aligns with the ADA, comes from the internationally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, developed by the W3C. More information and tips and tricks for improving accessibility can be found on its website.