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The Truth About ADA Compliant Websites for Dental Practices in 2020

Let’s be clear about one thing right now:

Nothing you do to make your dental practice’s website ADA compliant can stop someone from suing you.

If someone wants to file an opportunistic lawsuit, they can and will.

Will you win the case if it proceeds to trial? There’s no way to know for sure — there just isn’t enough case law and precedent related to dentists and ADA web compliance. Will you be better off just settling the case and moving on with your life — no matter how infuriating that might be? Possibly.

Don’t fall for these ADA compliant website scams

  • There is no automated tool that can magically make a website adhere to accessibility guidelines.
  • Nobody can prevent legal issues related to website compliance. The risk can be mitigated but cannot be eliminated.
  • Website accessibility reports will always find a problem with your practice’s website. Often these reports are automated and designed to scare dentists into investing in expensive services that don’t provide real value.

At Delmain, our web designers tackle ADA web compliance and accessibility issues by focusing on user experience, adhering to best practices, and keeping sites up to date, even as regulations and expectations evolve.

Want to learn more? Let’s talk

The fine print of ADA web compliance and legal conflict

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted well before the internet became an integral part of American society. While the act has been updated over the years, it just hasn’t kept pace with the speed at which technology has evolved. 

The ADA does not specifically mention websites. Here’s a PDF of the most up-to-date text. Click that link and search for “website” if you don’t believe me!

The lawsuits related to ADA compliant websites owned by dental practices, restaurants, and other private businesses stem from an interpretation of Title III of the act:

Title III – Prohibits disability-based discrimination for “places of public accommodations”: private businesses that are open to the public, such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, museums, and doctor’s offices.

The argument made by plaintiffs and their lawyers is that a website is a “public accommodation.” Is this true? 

A recent case related to the ADA requirements for websites involving Domino’s Pizza reached the Supreme Court in 2019. Lower courts ruled that a blind website user’s lawsuit over the inaccessibility of Domino’s website violated Title III of the ADA. The Supreme Court denied Domino’s request for an appeal. 

Note that this ADA web compliance lawsuit was aimed at a multi-billion dollar international corporation, not a local dental practice. Deeper pockets both make a better target for these lawsuits and can be used to encourage other big companies to make their websites and products accessible to all people.

Best practices for ADA compliant websites

While some lawsuits related to ADA web compliance may be considered frivolous, the issue of website accessibility is serious.

“Accessibility for your dental website is essential. 

Not only does accessibility help you reach the broadest audience possible, but it ensures your patients can easily obtain the info they want and need.”

Brance Pearson, Lead Web Designer at Delmain

While there are no ADA requirements for websites, recent case law and the Department of Justice suggest that adhering to WCAG2.1 guidelines is an ADA website compliance best practice. If you work with an agency or web designer, ask them whether your practice’s website meets as many of those guidelines as possible. 

We can break these guidelines down into 4 categories. We’ll try to explain these as simply as possible and provide a few best practices:

Perceptibility

By layering text over a video in the background, screen readers and other assistive technologies allow all website visitors to read, understand, and interact with Cedar Village Dentistry’s website.

Not all website visitors have the same level of visual acuity. Some visitors rely on screen readers that literally “read” the content of a website aloud. Others will use accessibility tools built into their browser or computer’s operating system to increase the font size of on-screen text.

DO NOT:

  • Embed text into image files. Use modern web design best practices to separate text from images.

DO:

  • Use HTML’s alt tags to provide a clear description of what is shown in an image.

Operability

Many visitors will never see this sitemap on Hildreth Dental’s website. But it makes navigating the site much more accessible!

Some website visitors will use their keyboard to navigate your website instead of a mouse. Other visitors may have a hard time seeing, hearing, or otherwise interacting with “non-standard” content.

DO NOT:

  • Rely on images, videos, or other content that “blinks” or flashes. 
  • Create web designs that are designed to function “properly” on a small subset of devices. Modern responsive web-design standards are best for all users!

DO:

  • Make sure that all links and menus are easily navigable through the keyboard.
  • Create a sitemap that shows visitors all the pages they can visit on your site.

What does “ADA compliant website” mean?

An ADA compliant website is one that is accessible to all visitors, including those who have disabilities that affect hearing, vision, or mobility.

What are ADA requirements for websites?

The ADA requires public accommodations to be accessible to people with disabilities. While ADA requirements for websites are vague at best, make sure your website adheres to WCAG2.1 guidelines.

Who needs an ADA compliant website?

Any business website that serves the public should be ADA compliant and accessible. This includes dental offices, medical practices, and even small businesses like restaurants and online stores.

What if my website is not ADA compliant?

If a person is unable to access your website due to its lack of ADA compliance and their disability, you could face a lawsuit. You might have to pay legal fees, be assessed fines, deal with negative press, or even invest in a new and ADA compliant website.

Understandability

Every aspect of the Healthy Smiles Family Dental website was designed with accessibility in mind. Large buttons are easy to interact with and different-sized headings make content more accessible.

Limit the frustrations of all website visitors by making your website easy to navigate, understand, and engage with.

DO NOT:

  • Disable the back button, right-clicking of links, or other standard browser features. Doing so at best frustrates website visitors and at worst makes your site inaccessible to visitors who need those features to navigate your website.
  • Rely on pop-ups or hover effects. These may not work as you intend for all users, particularly those who use assistive technology to visit your website.  

DO:

  • Use headings and bulleted lists to make content easier for visitors who use assistive technology tools.
  • Make text, links, and buttons large and easy to read and interact with. Use clear language to explain where a link or button will take the visitor. Surprises can lead to frustration!

Robustness

New assistive devices and technologies are constantly being developed. Make sure your website can accommodate the visitors who rely on them.

DO NOT:

  • Get too caught up in the use of trendy technologies and tools when developing your website. Rely on established best practices to ensure ADA web compliance for the greatest possible number of website visitors. This will “future proof” your site and make sure it’s accessible for years to come.

DO:

  • Show your web designer these guidelines and ask them to verify that your site meets them. “Just trust me” isn’t a good answer. This stuff is technical, but a skilled designer/developer will be able to explain it to you!

Accessibility makes your website better for everyone

Following the above best practices and guidelines will provide many added benefits, too. The end result will be a well-designed, accessible, and engaging website that will encourage website visitors to schedule an appointment.

Additionally, many accessibility best practices will improve your website’s Google search rankings. 

    Are you planning a website redesign or worried about the accessibility of your practice’s website?

    The Delmain design team is an industry leader — known for creating many of the best dental websites around. In addition to our focus on accessibility, everyone on the Delmain team has undergone rigorous HIPAA privacy and security training and certification.

    Interested in learning more about how we can help your practice? Let’s talk

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