As August comes to a close we want to highlight the celebration of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). It is an annual event held every August to raise awareness about the importance of vaccinations. By stopping the spread of disease and protecting the immune systems of both adults and children, vaccinations are an invaluable public healthcare tool in the United States.
During NIAM, healthcare practitioners and organizations are encouraged to educate people about the crucial role vaccines play in preventing illnesses such as tetanus, measles, hepatitis, whooping cough, and the flu.
NIAM is also an excellent time to make sure that you and your family are up to date on your shots, especially if you’ll be traveling internationally or starting school in a new location.
As the 2018 edition of NIAM draws to a close, and as children and parents prepare for the new school year, it’s the perfect time to look back on why web accessibility is so crucial for healthcare. Nearly 1 in 5 people in the U.S. has a disability, so making your website accessible is imperative to fully serve all of your users.
Why Web Accessibility Is Important for Healthcare Organizations
In general, healthcare is one of the most important sectors for people with disabilities, who tend to interact with medical professionals more often. Although people with disabilities make up 19 percent of the U.S. population, they incur about 27 percent of U.S. healthcare expenditures.
Web accessibility positively impacts healthcare by making it easier for people with disabilities to perform activities such as scheduling medical appointments, reading reviews of different doctors and practices, paying their bills, and viewing test results.
Primary care providers should be particularly interested in web accessibility. By making their websites more accessible, physicians will be more likely to receive the business of people with disabilities and build strong long-term patient relationships with them.
Initiatives for web accessibility are also important for improving children’s health. Online health portals such as AboutKidsHealth and WebMD must prioritize web accessibility in order for parents with disabilities to make better decisions about their children’s health.
Web Accessibility Regulations for the Healthcare Industry
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires “places of public accommodation” such as hospitals and primary care practices to be accessible to people with disabilities. Although it does not explicitly address the question of web accessibility, the ADA has been widely interpreted to apply not only to physical locations, but also to virtual extensions of a business such its websites.
Despite this, in recent years, a growing number of web accessibility lawsuits have alleged that healthcare facilities and insurance companies are in violation of the ADA by having websites that are insufficiently accessible.
Beyond the ADA, new federal web accessibility regulations are also impacting healthcare organizations:
- The “meaningful access” rule, effective July 18, 2016, requires healthcare providers who receive federal funds to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.
- As of July 1, 2017, all Medicaid managed care programs must have EIT that is “readily accessible” to people with disabilities.
In order to avoid the risk of expensive and time-consuming legal cases, healthcare organizations in the U.S. should bring their websites in compliance with robust, well-known web accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
NIAM clearly illustrates the importance of web accessibility for healthcare providers whose websites must educate and enable clients to access services. Web accessibility makes it easier for healthcare professionals and patients to exchange the information they need about vaccinations, keeping the U.S. population safer and healthier.
For more information on web accessibility, follow the Bureau of Internet Accessibility blog to receive the latest news and updates. We also offer a free scan of your website so that you can test your compliance with the WCAG and discover any gaps in your web accessibility efforts.