Announcer: Welcome to the Doctor Marketing Tips podcast, your prescription to the answers you seek to grow your medical practice easier, better, and faster. This show is all about connecting practice administrators and medical marketing professionals with peers working in practices, learning from experiences, making mistakes, and sharing successes. Let’s get started.
Jennifer: Hey there. Welcome to the Doctor Marketing Tips podcast. I am Jennifer.
Corey: And I’m Corey.
Jennifer: Today, we want to talk about something that some of us might be paying attention to, and some of us might be thrilled that this actually is getting brought up in a podcast episode, because you need to be paying attention to it, and that is ADA compliance. So, in a landmark lawsuit, the first of its kind to make it to trial actually, a Florida federal judge ruled in favor of a blind man who alleged that the Winn-Dixie company website violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA act. There’s more cases on the way. The fact is that the plaintiff in the Winn-Dixie case filed some 70, as in seven zero, similar lawsuits against companies in the state of Florida, making headlines nationally and making website accessibility and ADA compliance a hot issue. In fact, I did some research recently and the estimate was that more than 2,000 websites ADA compliance lawsuits were expected to be filed by the end of the year in 2018. That’s up from 700 that were filed in 2017, with California, New York, and Florida leading the charge on these lawsuits.
Jennifer: Some of you might be saying, “Why in the world is all of this happening,” and I did a little more research, and there’s a Forbes article that talks about how the department of justice back in 2010 said they were going to review and release some rules that businesses could follow related to ADA compliance and your website, but they haven’t actually released those rules. So, since there’s no actual rule book for businesses to turn to for ADA compliance, what’s been happening is a bunch of lawsuits have been getting filed, which is what we’re seeing these last couple of years, and therefore the rules are being made through a patchwork of judicial decisions. Those judicial decisions and that piecemeal approach is leading to this onslaught of litigation. So what you’ll hear from groups that focus on bringing awareness to Americans with disabilities, they will file lawsuits or attorneys will file lawsuits on their behalf really to bring the issue to light more so than a recover of damages or something like that.
Jennifer: So, you’re seeing these last couple of years attorney fees because attorneys can recoup their dollars in these ADA compliance cases. Attorney fees upward of $100,000 dollars in certain instances that small businesses, which includes our listeners, can be on the hook for for ADA compliance violations. So Cory, you and I had this ADA compliance episode on the back burner for a while, and it really came to the front burner for me recently just a couple months ago. I think you said we had a client that came to you talking about this, but I had a friend of mine who is the property appraiser over at … I’m sorry, not the property appraiser, the supervisor of elections over in Seminole County, Florida, and he got slapped with a lawsuit for his website because it wasn’t ADA compliant and then there’s some accessibility issues for the blind on his website. So, that local government has been jumping through hoops I know recently trying to get themselves up and running from an ADA compliant standpoint.
Jennifer: So, I think it’s a really applicable conversation for us to have and to come up with the right notes and tools that both our listeners and the practices that we work with can run their websites through these ADA compliance rules to see if they are up to snuff, because I will tell you straight up, that if you’re a business and you are perceived to have pockets that are even mildly deep, you are wide open as a target for these. I don’t want to call them frivolous lawsuits because these are important issues that are important to bring up to the public, and it’s good to make improvements all around, but they are frivolous lawsuits when you look at the fact that these are small businesses employing people, just trying to be in business, and it’d be one thing to point something out and for a business to correct it, but it’s another thing when you take them to court and then you have to pay $100,000 dollars in attorney fees.
Jennifer: So Corey, why don’t we talk first about what it means to be ADA compliant, and how this whole thing came into effect, and then what practices our listeners can do to make sure they’re ADA compliant moving forward?
Corey: Yeah, absolutely. So, ADA compliance basically came into force in 1990 and it’s really picked up steam lately, as you alluded to there in the intro. Essentially, the law forbids any public serving institution from discriminating against people with disabilities. So, where the private sector is concerned, that’s small businesses and the like, they have to meet certain requirements, and then what we’re seeing now is that this protection extends to the company website as well which is, as we know, some medical practices have websites that are quite old and outdated. Those are the websites, I think, that are really potential targets for these type of lawsuits.
Jennifer: Yeah, and I think it’s important to point out that the ADA act focuses on those businesses that have 15 or more employees.
Jennifer: So, while I think it’s a good thing for everybody to be thinking of, even if you only have two employees, the real focus was on those businesses with 15 or so employees.
Corey: Yeah, and the focus is that those businesses with 15 or more employees, on the website as well, need to remove any what are called access barriers preventing someone with disabilities from accessing a company’s product or services. So essentially, if you have over 15 people and you have an old website, you’re a target for this, I think is what it boils down to.
Jennifer: Absolutely, and I think this can go as deep as the color of your website, the size of the fonts, if things are gonna run through voice software. I mean, there’s all kinds of things that you should be paying attention to.
Corey: Right, exactly. Actually, so there’s a pretty big list of guidelines that’s available out there on how the practice website can become ADA compliant. In the show notes for this episode we’ve actually got some links up where you can actually click and you can see these overview guidelines. I wanted to run through a couple of them. So, what you’ll find as you’re going through here is that your website is probably up to snuff on a set amount of them, and them some of them are gonna sound like they’re out of left field and you’re gonna have to make some changes. Some aspects of the site may be a bit more challenging to fix, but just real quick I just wanted to highlight a few of them. So, the text on your site needs to obtain a minimum contrast ratio against the background, which basically means that it needs to be easy to read. If you have a site that’s a bunch of funky colors, you’re technically not ADA compliant, which I thought was pretty interesting.
Corey: Your website should also be capable of processing text and scaling up to 200% without creating any sort of horizontal scrolling or contact breaking layout issues. That’s a crazy one, because if you just think about that, you essentially have to double the size of your website and have nothing break. So, that’s funny.
Jennifer: Yeah, and some of that stuff, it sounds really daunting but I think that if you, for our listeners, go check out the check list. It’s 60 things that you need to adhere to, and I think the stuff that you’re pulling out, Cory, are the highlight ones. I think definitely check your website against the 60 things, and then I believe there’s even a couple of URLs that you can go to, pop your URL in, do it, and find out. Almost like how Google does the mobile friendly test. I think it’ll pop out and tell you if you are ADA compliant, or what percentage that you are of it. So this sounds daunting, but it’s not overwhelming.
Corey: Yeah, and the thing to remember too is that if you have a newer website, a lot of this stuff, not everything that’s on that checklist, but a lot of it’s gonna be handled just from the fact that technology has caught up. On newer websites, they’re called responsive, which means that they change shape depending on what screen size they’re being viewed on. So for example, if you have a newer website and you look at it on your phone, it’s gonna look different than on your tablet, which is gonna look different than on your desktop, but each one, the text is going to scale accordingly. So that actually checks off three of the 60 things as an example. So, it just depends.
Jennifer: Yeah, and I just think it’s something that our practices we work with need to be paying attention to, especially as we are doing refresh and everybody’s thinking about what to do for the new year. Updating your website and making sure that you’re in compliance is nothing but a good day. Aside from the fact that this is gonna be a little time intensive and maybe a little scary, for some practices, I think it’s important to point out that it’s not all bad when you have to go and focus on making some updates. There’s some ways that you can really see it as a benefit to your practice. We had an example of an ENT practice that we were working with about a year and a half ago. I use this example a lot in my talks, and we had a patient reach out to us in a negative manner on social media saying that the practice didn’t care about individuals with disabilities, and those individuals with hearing loss.
Jennifer: We used it as an opportunity to improve, used that as we’ve called it recently the gift of feedback, was the gift of allowing us to improve. The person was dead on. The practice had video. When we lean into video a lot, our marketing efforts, we have video on social media and talking about some different things that were going on, but because this person was hearing impaired, they weren’t able to hear what the video was saying and they basically were slamming the practice for not providing captions. We use that as a learning opportunity to go out there and make all of the videos for all of our practices that we work with ADA compliant, and to be more sensitive to the fact that not everybody can hear their video, and we added captions. We do that now across the board, and it was just that opportunity. That feedback that we were provided allowed us to be thinking about it from a different side.
Jennifer: So, while this can be a frightening and overwhelming task to tackle, I think there’s some real benefits of ADA compliance.
Corey: Yeah, definitely. I think that that’s a great opportunity to build that patient loyalty. This was a potential patient, like you said, with disabilities and we took the feedback, the gift of feedback, to improve and we’ve been better off for that. I think you also can use ADA compliance as an opportunity to increase the target audience. Disabled people number of 50 million people in the US, so you optimize your site for ADA compliance, that’s gonna drive some of those people through the front door, obviously. It even may have an impact on SEO because search engines like Google award websites with clear human intentions, and if you do everything that’s required on these lists, the search engines can pick up on some of those things and you may actually see an improvement, an additional boost if you will, based off of that.
Jennifer: Absolutely, and then another benefit is enhancing your reputation and building patient loyalty, because when this woman reached out and really slammed the practice for not being sensitive to her hearing disability, we used it as an opportunity to improve and now she’s a raving fan, to the point that we made sure to reach back out to her and say, “Look, because of your feedback we went and made all these changes.” Now nine times out of 10, not only is she gonna tell other people, but she is a fan for life of this practice because of something that, honestly, we should have been doing it all along and we just didn’t have it on our radar.
Corey: Yeah, and I mean it’s marketing without spending a dime when you do it like that.
Jennifer: Absolutely [crosstalk 00:14:54]. It’s all about the patient experience, and we need to be thinking about all patients and not just one or two segments of patients.
Corey: Yeah, so how to get started. There’s a couple tools on the show notes you’ll find on our website. One is essentially a list of what you can do to be ADA compliant. We’ve also got something called Lighthouse that generates reports on potential problems with your website. It’ll spit back some of the major things that you need to change, and we also have a contrast ratio calculator. So remember, one of those things I was talking about earlier was the contrast ratio between the text and the background. If you plug it into the calculator there, it will actually tell you what your ratio is and if it is ADA compliant or not. So, these tools will help you identify some of the simple issues and then from there you can decide on next steps and how far you want to go down the rabbit hole here.
Jennifer: Absolutely, and I think the biggest takeaway is, if you’re thinking right now of redoing your website, then I would say ADA compliance should be top of mind, and if you’ve been on the fence about redoing your website and you notice that there’s some problems within your existing site, now is a perfect time to use ADA compliance to help those decision makers move you from, “Eh, we’ll get to it next year,” to, “Yes, we’ll get to it this year.”
Corey: Yeah, absolutely.
Jennifer: I think with that, I’m Jennifer.
Corey: I’m Corey.
Jennifer: We’ll see you next time on the Doctor Marketing Tips podcast.
Corey: Thanks, guys.
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