When the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, the Internet as we know it today the ubiquitous infrastructure for information and commerce did not exist. Neither did the information technology driven workplace. Today the Internet, most notably the sites of the Web, plays a critical role in the daily professional, business, and healthcare life of Americans.
Increasingly, private entities are providing goods and services to the public through websites that operate as places of public accommodation under title III of the ADA. This includes the field of healthcare.
Many websites providing healthcare information however, render use by individuals with disabilities difficult or impossible due to barriers posed by web platforms designed without accessible features.
Being unable to access websites puts individuals with disabilities at a great disadvantage in today’s society, which is driven by a dynamic electronic marketplace which provides unprecedented access to information.
More and more, individuals are turning to the Internet to obtain healthcare information. Individuals use the Internet to research diagnoses they have received or symptoms that they are experiencing. There are a myriad of websites that provide information about causes, risk factors, complications, test and diagnosis, treatment and drugs, prevention, and alternative therapies for just about any disease or illness. Moreover, healthcare and insurance providers are increasingly offering patients the ability to access their healthcare records electronically via websites.
In addition it is now possible to order medications and medical devices online, file necessary forms and documentation as well as communicate with medical staff.
As use of the Internet to provide and obtain healthcare information and services increases, the inability of individuals with disabilities to also access this information can potentially have a significant adverse effect on their health.
For the healthcare industry to ignore people with disabilities as a market for goods and services is a tremendous mistake. This is a population that now includes twenty five percent of the general population and that number is only going to keep growing.
All that is needed is for the healthcare industry to adopt an Access Ready Environments policy to take advantage of this ready customer and employee market place.
The ADA’s promise to provide an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from all aspects of American civic and economic life will be achieved in today’s technologically advanced society only if it is clear to the healthcare industry and other public accommodations that their websites must be accessible.