A Dentist’s Guide to Website Accessibility

October 13, 2021 by AACD Executive Office

As a dentist, you know that your website is frequently used as a primary resource of information for your current and potential patients. When it comes to other businesses and industries—or even government services—a website can be a very useful tool for the public. For that reason, it is important that your website is accessible to as many people as possible. However, in addition to ensuring your website is user-friendly to all types of audiences, having website accessibility tools available on your site can help prevent you from getting into legal trouble, as well.      

How Can Website Accessibility Lead To Lawsuits?

Legal firms are scrutinizing websites all over the Internet to identify businesses that are not “in compliance” with accessibility standards. Unfortunately, there are no clear ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations for businesses to follow, and there is no real finality to the law at this time. In an effort to help you protect your practice, we have identified certain website features that are frequently targeted in these lawsuits:

  • Images Without Text Equivalents - when images on your site do not have an “alt tag,” it prevents screen reader programs from being able to help individuals with visual impairments better understand what is displayed on the webpage they are currently accessing.
  • Documents That Are Not Posted in an Accessible Format - if documents provided on your website (e.g., PDF files or Microsoft Word documents provided as patient forms) are not screen reader friendly, this can create an obstacle for some users.
  • Colors and Font Sizes Are Not Specified - website visitors with visual impairments, including color blindness, may need options to better view website content. Thankfully, there are various ADA plugins that can be utilized to enable these features.
  • Videos and Other Multimedia Lack Accessible Features - for example, if videos on your website lack closed captioning (CC), it can be problematic for individuals with hearing impairments.

How Can You Protect Your Practice?

In addition to ensuring your site avoids the concerns noted above, we recommend the following tips to help your practice avoid legal issues. Furthermore, incorporating these elements into your dental website design can provide increased accessibility and a better user experience for your current and potential patients:

  • Develop an Action Plan - starting with a website audit, your practice can identify areas that need improvement, as well as opportunities to enhance your website to make it more user-friendly and accessible to as many patients as possible. The WAVE® Website Accessibility Evaluation Tool is a great way to gain insight into the types of adjustments you may need to make. However, it is still important to conduct a manual evaluation of your website, as well.
  • Have an Accessibility Statement - your site should feature a statement explaining the accessibility features available to website visitors. Additionally, your practice should have a dedicated person in the office to serve as an Accessibility Manager.
  • Have a Dedicated Toll-Free Phone Number on the Accessibility Statement - an easy way to contact your practice and/or Accessibility Manager should be included on the accessibility statement, for individuals who need further assistance beyond the tools provided on the site. This ensures that all patients can receive the best possible experience when seeking more information about your practice and the services you offer.

While there are no guarantees your business will not be targeted, adding in these safeguards can dramatically reduce your risk and exposure. Keep in mind that while the ADA plugins can be helpful tools, they will not fix all issues. For example, providing closed captioning or transcriptions for videos on your site will require additional work. If you really want to make your website accessible to everyone, it will take some time, money, and effort. To fully achieve this task, you will need to be “all in”! If you need help getting started, please do not hesitate to contact Rosemont Media to speak with one of our knowledgeable consultants and learn more about how you can make your practice website more accessible.

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