The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that requires you to comply with certain standards for websites, per the folks at accessiBe. If you are not in compliance, your website might be considered inaccessible to people with disabilities. The ADA has specific requirements about the accessibility of web content and how it should be provided to people who use assistive technology, including screen readers.
The U.S. Department of Justice enforces the ADA by investigating whether covered entities have discriminated against individuals or groups based on disability, including impairment-related conditions such as dyslexia or color blindness. Violations can result in fines up to $50,000 per infraction ($1 million if the violation was intentional). Therefore, it’s important to review the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for public accommodations, including places of lodging, recreation, transportation, and theaters.
Another law that might touch your organization is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which prevents health care providers from sharing personally identifiable patient information in an online forum.
Another key issue for medical organizations is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. This law was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and includes a provision for breach notification in the case of a security incident. It also includes specific language about access to electronic patient data.
In addition, you need to know if your state has laws that might apply, such as California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA). Organizations subject to the CMIA must include a notice on their websites and in direct communications with patients about whether or not data can be gathered electronically and how it will be used.
In addition to complying with laws that apply specifically to medical sites, you also should understand the general requirements for ADA web compliance and those of HIPAA and HITECH.
Let’s start with the ADA, whose section 508 web standards are part of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. These standards intend to make electronic and information technology, which includes software applications or operating systems, function independently for people who are disabled. Five standards apply to websites based on industry classification:
Industry classification is, in essence, a grouping of related activities or businesses. For example, the movie industry or the software publishing business might be classified as entertainment and publishing industries, respectively.
One requirement for mobile sites is automatically adapting to smaller screens without sacrificing site content or functionality. This could be accomplished with a mobile framework such as Bootstrap.
As an example of how the ADA applies specifically to websites, let’s use software publishing as an industry classification. For this category, the standards state that, at minimum, websites must be accessible when technologies like style sheets (CSS) are disabled. In addition, the color contrast between text and background also should meet certain standards to make it easier for people with disabilities to read the content.
Although several laws have web-related components, knowing the ADA requirements for websites is key. It’s also important to keep in mind that if your organization has business associates or subcontractors, these people should be made aware of any applicable law.