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ACA 1557 Pushes Web Accessibility to Healthcare

Ensuring your organization’s website is easy-to-navigate and intuitive are top priorities for healthcare marketers today.

But it’s important to consider that optimal website usability can look and sound very different to people with sensory impairments like blindness, low vision, deafness or hard of hearing. People with cognitive disabilities, or whose native language isn’t English, can struggle with content comprehension. It can also be more difficult to navigate a website with certain motor skill impairments.

For people with a range of abilities different from your own, you must take usability a step further and address accessibility.

In May, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released the final rule for Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare. Section 1557 builds on a host of existing legislation to ensure access to health services by prohibiting discrimination on a wide range of factors including race, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

So what does this mean for your organization’s website?

There are a two sections that are particularly important when it comes to healthcare web operations:

  1. Meaningful Access for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency Section 1557 requires healthcare organizations to provide language assistance to those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Organizations must offer some form of real-time translation services for patient encounters today but, at a minimum, Section 1557 also requires a tagline (their term, not mine) alerting LEPs to the availability of language assistance services and a notice of individuals’ rights to communication assistance in the top 15 languages spoken in that state. The Department of Health & Human Services has been nice enough to provide samples in a wide range of languages. Action: While the legislation doesn’t specifically refer to posting these notices and taglines on your organization’s website, it’s a good starting point. Also, consider how to make more of your website available to LEPs through translated content or automated translation services such as Google translate.
  2. Effective Communication with and Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities Section 1557 requires healthcare organizations to take steps to ensure that communications with individuals with disabilities are as effective as those with anyone else. It incorporates existing federal guidance on these topics including the American’s With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (home of the Web Accessibility requirements commonly referred to by their placement in Section 504 of that act). Action: While many organizations are interested in accessibility, few actively invest in expertise to verify their websites’ accessibility, train content contributors or monitor accessibility over time. It’s time to either invest in accessibility yourself or partner with an organization that does.

Accessibility Audits

An accessibility audit by an agency like Geonetric that understands accessibility in healthcare is a great place to start. Our certified specialists can help you uncover opportunities to improve the user experience for people of all abilities.

Contact Us today to learn how a Geonetric Accessibility Audit can help you avoid a costly lawsuit while ensuring your website is accessible to all visitors.

Ben Dillon

Chief Executive Officer

ACA 1557 Pushes Web Accessibility to Healthcare