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ADA promulgating information on helping dentists make their websites accessible

May 08, 2017

By David Burger

Austin, Texas — Several member dentists in Texas have received correspondence from an attorney alleging that their websites violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because they are not accessible to individuals with disabilities, according to the Texas Dental Association.

"We started receiving calls and emails from members at the beginning of the year informing us that they received demand letters from an Austin-based attorney alleging Americans with Disability Act violations regarding their websites," said Diane Rhodes, senior policy manager for the Texas Dental Association. "In response, we sent an email communication to our entire membership with a guidance document."

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990, requires that all places of public accommodation, including retail stores, transportation, schools and healthcare facilities, be accessible to individuals with disabilities. The law has been construed, in some instances, to require that such accessibility be extended to websites offering services to the public.

There are steps that a dental practice can take to make their websites more accessible to individuals with disabilities. These steps may also reduce the risk of a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the ADA Division of Legal Affairs.
 
The ADA has sent information to all state dental societies about how to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act in regard to websites, said J. Craig Busey, ADA general counsel. He advises dentists to check with their respective state dental society for access to a white paper about the issue, which includes steps they can take to decrease the risk of a claim.

The steps include adding an accessibility link that directs individuals with disabilities to a webpage that tells them what to do if they can't access something on the website; asking a web designer if the website is accessible as designed and implemented; and even temporarily disabling the website if it can't quickly be made accessible.

The laws involving the Americans with Disabilities Act and website accessibility are still largely up in the air when it comes to enforcement. A California district court in March dismissed a case in which the plaintiff sued the pizza chain Domino's for allegedly not having a website or app that was accessible to visually impaired people.  The court found that the standards for compliance have not been articulated and that the website's offer to respond to concerns about accessibility was not shown to be insufficient to comply with the law.

"A Dentist's Guide to the Law: 228 Things Every Dentist Should Know" (L756), from the ADA Catalog, includes sections on the Americans with Disabilities Act and its provisions affecting website development, including sample language for a web developer contract. Readers can save 15 percent on the book and all ADA Catalog products by using promo code 17126 until June 30. To order, visit adacatalog.org or call 1-800-947-4746.
 
PBHS, the only endorsed marketing services/website company by ADA Business Resources, complies with guidelines for accessibility for all new website development. Practices with older websites can contact PBHS regarding an accessibility audit and learn more about the actions required for practice compliance. PBHS is the leading provider of website design and online search engine marketing services for the dental community. ADA members receive a $500 discount on their packages, a selection of free ADA online patient brochures and videos, plus a complimentary analysis of their current branding and online presence. For more information or to set up a free consultation, contact PBHS at 1-855-932-4232.