Guidance on website accessibility added to AwDA resource

CDA’s regulatory compliance experts are receiving calls from members who are concerned about how compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act might extend to website accessibility. Dentists have questions about whether their practice websites are compliant with AwDA and, if not, what steps they can take to bring their websites into compliance. In response to member calls and recent communication from the American Dental Association on this matter, CDA Practice Support added a section on website accessibility to its AwDA-related resource.

Available for download through the CDA Practice Support webpage (cda.org/practicesupport), “Americans with Disabilities Act and Disability Rights Laws” provides background on the federal law, guidance on complying with both federal and state physical accessibility standards, requirements for communicating with the hearing-impaired, a Q-and-A with links to additional resources and the newly added guidance on ensuring practice websites are compliant with AwDA.

The increased focus on website compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which helps guarantee access to places of public accommodation for persons with disabilities, stems from legal correspondence received by dentists in Texas earlier this year. According to the ADA, the Texas Dental Association reported that several of its member dentists had received from an attorney demand letters alleging that their practice websites violated AwDA. These reports prompted the ADA to issue an email and guidance document to its entire membership along with information to all state dental associations about how to comply with the federal law with regard to practice websites.

Adding an accessibility link to the practice website is one of several strategies discussed in CDA’s updated resource. Dentists who are uncertain if their website is AwDA-compliant can, as a first step, contact their website designer and ask whether the website is accessible to individuals with disabilities that are protected by the federal law. If they learn the website is not accessible, they should ask what must be done to make it accessible. CDA recommends that practice owners “engage a qualified website designer who is familiar with the accessibility standards” and who can contractually address compliance with these standards. As a precautionary action, some dentists who know their websites are not compliant with AwDA may consider temporarily disabling the website until it can be replaced with a compliant site that includes specific language — as discussed in greater detail in CDA’s resource.

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in July 1990 and, along with related state and federal laws, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, government, public accommodations, education, commercial facilities, telecommunications and transportation.

With regard to website accessibility, the communication in May from the ADA notes that the laws “are still largely up in the air when it comes to enforcement” and cites a case dismissed in March by a California district court that found that “the standards for compliance have not been articulated.” Nevertheless, CDA’s regulatory compliance experts recommend that practice owners take one or more steps discussed here to decrease the risk of receiving a monetary demand or becoming involved in a lawsuit.

Find the updated AwDA-related resource in the Practice Support section of CDA’s website. Additionally, visit the ADA’s website for guidance on website accessibility and how to defend the practice against potential complaints and lawsuits.

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