Does your practice have a wheelchair ramp? An elevator or automatic door? Do you offer forms in braille or treat patients with prosthetics, hearing aids, or glasses? Then you’ve encountered accessibility in the wild! If you’d make your practice accessible for your disabled patients, you should also make your website accessible, too.
There are two basic reasons why website owners would want to make their website accessible. The first is protection and the second is inclusion.
In regards to protection, we have to talk about an unfortunate situation. In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) made an affirmation that websites are places of public accommodation, so there need to be accommodations and adjustments for people with disabilities. If not, plaintiffs can sue the website owner. Inclusion is a big part of the DOJ mandate, which means that we have to take these measures to make sure that all spaces are inclusive, both the physical space and the digital space. An estimated 300,000 demand letters claiming accessibility violations were sent in 2021. Essentially, these letters indicate that there’s an intention for some kind of litigation, which obviously can be very stressful for business owners. They can result in fines between $20,000 to $100,000. Obviously that’s a lot of letters, and these are significant costs that we’re talking about, especially for most dental practices.
In particular, the dental industry has been a target in this situation. The reasoning comes from a misconception that dental practices are very financially stable, that they are easier targets, or that they may not adopt some of these newer technologies to protect their site. This idea has led to a bit of a spike in litigation. This is of course so unfortunate because dentists are, by nature, doctors. They work in health care, and their objective is to help people, not exclude people. They’re trying to reach out to people and give them a better life. And because of the legal environment and this perceived opportunity, you have certain people sitting on the fence, just waiting to attack them.
However, all this brings us to the second reason people reach out to us: inclusion. Dentists are there to serve the entire community. That is their core mandate. A lot of dentists get on board with accessibility because they think, “This is important to us from an ethical standpoint and from a branding standpoint. We want to make sure that our community understands that we are reaching out to everyone and we are not going to leave anyone behind.” That is one big core tenant!
If we’re strictly looking at accessibility from a business perspective, inclusion makes good business sense. If you’re gonna be driving traffic to your dental practice website, you want to make sure that everyone can interact with that content. According to accessiBe, 20 to 25% of the United States population has some disability. That is 20 to 25% of the population interacting with your content and scheduling appointments. If you accommodate them well, that could seriously set you apart from some of your competition. Over the last few years, there’s been a huge uptick in website registration in general. There are close to about 370 million registered dot com domain names now. That’s a lot of websites out there for people to go and visit! But how many of those are really user-friendly to the people who need them?
It’s really important to make these efforts for the disabled community in general, and we have to see that as a core principle. For a lot of businesses, as they grow and as their situation evolves, they begin to understand that this has become and is evolving into a new standard in the industry.
SSL technology went through a similar transition about five years ago. Google came out and said (I am paraphrasing here), “Listen, we’re not even going to list you in our results unless you are SSL secure.” If you’re unfamiliar, you know when you type in a URL, and the “https” goes before it? The “http” does one thing, but the “s” at the end is for “secure,” meaning the website is secure for you to use. Think of how ubiquitous that “s” is now. It wasn’t always like that!
Accessibility is going through that same transformation now. Just like how SSL secure websites are the new standard, accessibility is all moving in one direction. Part of what’s motivating that is the pandemic, when everything went online, and part of it is legislation. Lawmakers recognize that these websites are such a big part of our lives that they have to be available to disabled people. People and businesses are gaining a better understanding that we need to appeal to the entire breadth of the population in our community, and this is one of the ways that we can do that.
Think about this situation from a humane perspective. Life is hard enough as it is. When someone has something that you need and they are making a conscious effort to do something for you, that’s huge. I don’t know about you, but I’d be forever grateful. By the way, people in the disabled community are the most loyal consumer group of all consumer groups. If you’re making your website more inclusive towards people, word will spread. The people that you help by doing that are going to tell a friend, and that friend will tell another friend.
We partner with accessiBe. One component of the software they designed is called Seizure Safe Profile. Essentially, it stops all of the motion on a website and dims the color, which makes it much safer for someone who has epilepsy. We recently heard a story from our partners at accessiBe about a client of theirs. They were showing their client this software, and it turns out that this woman’s daughter has epilepsy. She was so moved that a company had made the effort to actually create a product that was designed for her daughter and the community that her daughter is a part of. That happens so rarely. I’m a parent, and being a parent of children without disabilities is hard enough. Supporting your child through their disabilities and seeing them having to navigate a world that is not built for them is unimaginably difficult. I can only imagine how grateful she is that technology is catching up to people like her daughter. I think what really encapsulates it for me is this: she felt that she was seen. Her daughter was recognized as a part of the broader, worldwide community. The company that put that widget there made an effort to say, “We see you and we’re gonna make this adjustment for you.” That is worth making the effort.
We are on a mission to help 500 cosmetic dental practices double their revenue by 2026, and we want yours to be one of them. Now that you know how website accessibility can help you find your next patient, would you be interested in a free consultation for your dental practice?