Digital Accessibility Impacting HealthCare

Category: ADA Compliance, HealthCare

“XYZ Health is an online health management portal offered to its subscribers by XYZ Health Insurance Company. A subscriber must register in the portal in order to avail various programs and benefits.

Scenario 1: A subscriber with low vision tried to register using the registration screen of the portal. The registration screen has a white background with light gray fonts making it difficult for the subscriber to read the text. The screen does not allow the text to be zoomed to a larger size thereby making it difficult for the subscriber to read the text and enter their personal information for registration.

Scenario 2: Upon logging in to the portal, there are helpful videos on a variety of wellness topics. A subscriber with hearing impairment wants to watch these wellness videos. However, the videos do not offer closed captioning or transcription thereby making the subscriber not benefiting from the wellness videos on the portal.”

The two scenarios listed above are among many real-world scenarios that individuals with disabilities can encounter when dealing with healthcare. From scheduling doctor visits, filling out medical history details, reading statement of benefits, accessing wellness content, etc., healthcare companies and providers needs to understand the importance of accessibility and how it impacts the population of individuals with disabilities.

Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act requires federal government agencies to make all of its electronic information and technology fully usable by individuals with disabilities. This means that websites, software, multimedia files, documents, etc. must meet specific accessibility requirements to comply with the law. However, there are no regulations for non-federal entities such as hospitals, doctors, healthcare facilities, insurance companies to adhere to Section 508 standards. Not having a digital accessibility plan and non-adherence to these accessibility standards may open the door for penalties due to discrimination, loss of government funding, lawsuits, loss of customer base, etc.

In addition to Section 508, there is another law pertaining to digital accessibility. Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prohibits health programs or facilities that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. In doing so, it incorporates existing federal civil rights laws, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and applies them to federally funded health care and health insurance programs.

Digital accessibility makes huge sense from a business perspective. If a business cannot offer accessible products and services, the business may lose those customers to their competitors who are more accessible friendly entities. People with disabilities usually have higher healthcare needs than the average person. These individuals must have fair and equal access to your website, portals, mobile application and other digital services, just like everyone else.

Are your products and services Section 508 ready? Come talk to us and learn how Newlineinfo Corp can help assess your organization for Section 508 and Section 1557 compliance.

Mobile Accessibility: Why should businesses care?

Category: ADA Compliance, Mobile

With the advent of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, their compact size and ease of use has led to an increased demand for these devices. It has become inevitable for companies to develop mobile applications (mobile apps) corresponding to their core websites. Popular rideshare companies like  Uber, Lyft, …..offer their core products as mobile apps only.

The challenge… How to make these mobile apps accessible to individuals with disabilities?

Prior to the mobile apps, government agencies and commercial entities relied on software and web standards published by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0). According to W3C – the organization that maintains WCAG 2.0 standards, but there are no separate guidelines for mobile accessibility, as it is covered in W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) accessibility standards/guidelines.

In the past, there have been many lawsuits related to website not being “accessible friendly” causing monetary losses and putting a company’s reputation at risk. Now this risk is extended to mobile applications as well – thereby causing companies to be more vigilant on adherence to these standards.

Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) have been incorporating accessibility features on their operating systems and devices to assist people with disabilities to use these features when using mobile applications. For example iOS provides Voiceover and Android provides TalkBack as screen readers. However these screen readers will read how the application has been coded. For example if the objects on the screen do not convey meaningful information to the end user through Voiceover or Talkback, then the accessibility problem has not been solved.

The big question is whether the creators of these mobile applications have knowledge of Section 508 standards and if they are performing assessment of their applications for accessibility compliance. While Section 508 compliance is not fully enforced in the commercial space, companies must understand the risks associated with usage of these applications by individuals with disabilities. They need to ensure that with reasonable accommodation all users of the mobile application must have a good user experience and not cause unexpected behavior due to accessible functionality.

Some best practices outlined below to ensure that mobile applications confirm to Section 508 standards:

         Plan a Section 508 charter that will be followed by the developers while creating the mobile app.

         Train your business analysts, developers and testers on Section 508 standards.

         Provide an accessibility statement to end users on the mobile app.

         Perform Section 508 assessment and remediate the pre-remediation findings to the extent possible.

         If possible, create an accessible version of the application.

As the demand for smartphones, tablets, voice-enabled devices is increasing, companies need to ensure that Section 508 standards are part of the development practices. At Newlineinfo Corp, we help you adhere and incorporate the 508 standards as part of the systems development lifecycle to minimize risk related to accessibility. This helps your business survive in the larger business ecosystem and continue to grow.