Digital Accessibility: Why It Should Be a Matter of Culture, Not Compliance

October 18, 2019

// By Keir Bradshaw //

Keir Bradshaw is executive vice president of MERGEStatistics paint a realistic picture of why healthcare organizations need to make their websites and other digital assets accessible to those with disabilities.

For starters, there’s the fact that disability affects just over one in every four people1 living in U.S. communities. From a pure business perspective, hospitals and health systems simply can’t afford to shut the digital front door on 26 percent of their potential patient populations.

Then there are the lawsuits. In 2018, at least 2,258 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in federal court under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — a 177 percent increase2 from the year before. The upward trend continued in Q1 2019, with 31 percent more lawsuits filed3 than in Q1 2018. Many experts even expect the U.S. Supreme Court4 to weigh in on digital accessibility requirements.

But to be honest, it shouldn’t matter what the statistics are, what the regulations say, or what the Supreme Court decides.

Instead, we must acknowledge the unmatched role of hospitals and health systems as caretakers of our communities. Digital accessibility goes beyond mere compliance measures. It’s a way to extend care to the community just as compassionately online as we do on-site.

Thus, at the human level, digital accessibility is a crucial facet of patient-centered care. It should be as hardwired into healthcare organizations as HIPAA. Today, we have the opportunity to view digital accessibility not as a compliance or business issue, but as a means to build a culture of accessibility within our healthcare organizations.

Let’s look at where digital accessibility efforts stand now, as well as a few strategies to enhance them.

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