Guest Post written by: Jerry Gitchel, Leverage Unlimited
Register today for our seminar on August 10th for our Web Accessibility Standards for Medical Practices.
Is this Legit?
The questions start with the arrival of an innocent looking envelope to your practice. It's from an obscure law firm, accusing you of violating a federal law, one you've never heard of. Even though you are holding the actual letter in your hand, "Is this legit?" is still a reasonable first question. The ADA recently addressed these so-called "Demand Letters." The letters quote the Americans with Disability Act (AwDA) and mention Title III, public accommodations as it pertains to businesses. Unfortunately, the answer to this first question is, "It's complicated."
Is it Real?
The AwDA was enacted prior to the birth of the Web. Although internationally developed Web Accessibility Standards exist, the actual US Federal law isn't expected to take effect until 2018. Is it legit? No. Which begs question #2. Is it real? Yes, most definitely. The demand letters include an accusation that a practice is denying access to disabled patients or prospects. The letter demands remediation to make a website accessible and payment by the practice as a settlement to avoid a lawsuit. By the time a practice receives a demand letter, it's more than real. It expensive. Even if you successfully avoid a lawsuit, the cost in time and treasure will impact productivity and profits.
Can this be Avoided?
The law firms involved have developed a process to identify litigation targets. The distance between their firm and your practice is one click. They use an automated tool to determine your site's accessibility. Even the demand letters are automated. Your best defense is to develop a plan to avoid becoming a target in the first place. An even better approach is to understand the challenge, then develop a process to mitigate the risk.
What Steps Could I Take?
The power is in knowing. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) were developed by W3C.org as an international standard for web accessibility. They have developed an automated tool to test your compliance. Involve your web professional. Once your site follows the standards, invest in staff training on how to respond to inquiries from patients who are covered under the AwDA. Develop written procedures they can use to eliminate the possibility of undue attention from a law firm.
What's In It For Me?
Inclusiveness is a growth strategy. Adopting standards that make your website accessible to prospective patients with disabilities is more that a nice thing to do. In the not too distant future, it will be the law. More importantly, it is just good for business.
Join us at the DPC Technology Center in Jacksonville on August 10th for dinner and a discussion on how to make sense of this important topic for all healthcare practices.