New Regulations Require Health Care Provider Websites to be Accessible

Two new regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will have a far-reaching impact on a broad range of health care providers, and will provide greater digital access for people with disabilities.

The first rule already went into effect on July 18, 2016. Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes it unlawful for many health care providers to discriminate against an individual based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.

It requires “meaningful access” to health programs and services that are provided electronically.

Which Organizations Are Affected?

The new rule applies to all health care programs that receive federal financial assistance.

Since most health care providers receive federal funds through Medicare reimbursement, most are covered under the new rules.

The second rule, which will take effect on July 1, 2017, will require managed care programs under Medicaid to comply with “modern accessibility standards.”

Digital Accessibility Being Seen as Civil Right

Not long ago, the federal government officially excluded websites under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, recent events now point to a full reversal and inclusion of digital accessibility. To learn more, read my recent article “Digital Accessibility Gaining Momentum.

All signs point to a particular set of accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA) for compliance even though HHS has not officially declared it to be the standard.

At Crux Collaborative, we’ve been using this set of standards when creating sites and conducting accessibility evaluations for clients for several years.

What Will It Take to Become Compliant?

This answer depends on the current state of your website. In some cases, especially if your site was built in the past few years, you may simply need to perform a basic tune-up on your code and content to meet the standards.

In other cases – especially if your site was built more than a few years ago – you are more likely to need a larger overhaul. The good news is that you can achieve many goals at once by upgrading to a modern code base. For example, your site can become fully compliant with accessibility guidelines while also becoming mobile-friendly and faster.

If you’re not sure where your organization stands, the first step is to find out. Companies like ours provide accessibility evaluations, complete with screen images, severity details, and estimated effort to repair. Usually, this kind of evaluation points in a clear direction, at which time you can formulate a plan to become digitally accessible.

Wondering if we can help you or do you have questions about accessibility. Contact us to start a conversation.

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