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How 508 Compliance is Shaping the Future of Inclusive Healthcare

17 May, 2024

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How 508 Compliance is Shaping the Future of Inclusive Healthcare

Here’s the story of Mathew, a senior with low vision, who wants to schedule an appointment with his cardiologist. The only way to book an appointment online is through the health clinic’s website. Unfortunately, the online appointment form doesn’t contain alt text descriptions for images, making it impossible for Mathew's screen reader to comprehend the required information he needs to submit. So, Mathew has to depend on someone else to book his appointment, which he could have done all by himself if the user interface was tailored to special needs.

This is not just about Mathew. In the digital era, when equal access to healthcare information and services is considered a fundamental right, millions of individuals with disabilities encounter similar problems. They face significant barriers in accessing healthcare facilities through websites that lack inclusive user interface features. This is where Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 comes into play!

Section 508 acts as a bridge to fill the gap and create a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system for all, regardless of their disabilities. Mirra Health Care delivers next-generation, user-interface design and full-stack development services powered by AI and Machine Learning (ML) to ensure accessible healthcare for all.

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In this blog post, we will share a comprehensive guide about Section 508 compliance , its importance in creating accessible digital healthcare systems, and how healthcare businesses can ensure adherence to 508 compliances. Read on to learn more!

What is Section 508 Compliance?

In the United States alone, more than 61 million people*, which constitutes nearly one in every four individuals, have a disability. To facilitate the requirements of specially-abled individuals and seniors, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 establishes accessibility requirements for electronic and information technology (EIT) specified by the federal government. Essentially, this federal law mandates that all federal agencies, and their contractors, develop, procure, maintain, or use EIT that is accessible to individuals with disabilities. This includes websites, online applications, software, digital documents, and more.

How Does Section 508 Compliance Impact Accessibility?

1. Website and Online Patient Portal Accessibility

Importance of Accessible Tools in Section 508 Compliance

Section 508 standards ensure websites and online portals are compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers used by visually impaired individuals. These standards also require features like keyboard navigation for those unable to use a mouse, and alt text descriptions for images, providing context for screen reader users.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) play a crucial role in defining these standards. WCAG outlines a set of internationally recognized principles for making web content accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities. By adhering to WCAG and Section 508 principles, healthcare businesses can ensure their websites and portals are user-friendly for everyone. 

Mirra Health Care offers solutions to help healthcare providers achieve website and portal accessibility through scalable user-interface design and full-stack development services. We create intuitive and engaging user interfaces that are inclusive and accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities.

Connect with Mirra to Ensure Section 508 Compliance

2. Digital Documents and Forms

Accessiblity Features in Section 508

Section 508 also mandates that all necessary healthcare documents like patient education materials, consent forms, and discharge instructions should be accessible to all. Healthcare businesses need to ensure accessible formats for digital documents, such as tagged PDFs with proper heading structures, allowing screen readers to navigate the document effectively.

In addition, alternative text descriptions should be provided for any visual content within the document.

3. Software and Technology Solutions

Use Assistive Technologies for Section 508 Compliance

Healthcare technology plays a crucial role in patient care management and service delivery. Section 508 compliance emphasizes compatibility of software and technology with assistive technologies like screen readers and voice recognition software.

These features ensure individuals with disabilities can interact with these tools effectively. In addition, the user interface design for software and technology solutions needs to be clear, intuitive, and adaptable to cater to diverse needs.

How to Make Your Website 508 Compliant? 

On average, 10,000 federal lawsuits for Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and Section 508 rehabilitation non-compliances are filed every year in the United States. However, incorporating a few elements can ensure your digital content is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Keyboard Navigation
Keyboard Based Navigation in Section 508

To ensure Section 508 compliance, your website and online tools should be fully navigable using just a keyboard. This feature will allow users with visual impairments or motor limitations to access information and complete tasks without using a mouse.

  • Descriptive Text (Alt Text)
Provide Alt-texts for Section 508 compliance

Provide clear and concise descriptions for all images and non-text content. This "alternative text" is read aloud by screen readers, ensuring blind or visually impaired users understand the content of the image.

  • High-Contrast Design
User High-Contrast Images to comply with Section 508

Healthcare websites should use color combinations that create a strong contrast between text, background, and interactive elements to ensure section 508 compliance. High-contrast UI/UX designs can improve readability for everyone, especially for those with visual impairments.

  • Readable Fonts
Use Readable Fonts for Section 508 Compliance

Select clear and easy-to-read fonts that are neither too thin nor too bold. A minimum font size of 12-point Arial (or equivalent) is recommended to ensure optimal readability.

  • Multimedia Accessibility
Ensure Multimedia Accessibility for Section 508

If healthcare websites contain important audio and video content, it should come with transcripts and captions. It will benefit individuals with hearing disabilities, non-native language speakers, seniors, or those who prefer using captions for better comprehension.

  • Screen Reader Compatibility
Keep the System Compatible with Section 508

It’s crucial to ensure both website and online tools are compatible with popular screen reader software. This feature can help blind or visually impaired users to access and interact with the website content effectively.

  • Avoiding Time Limits
Don’t Add any Time Limits for Form Submission

To ensure Section 508 compliance, remove any time constraints that may restrict users from completing tasks or filling out forms. This is particularly important for users with motor disabilities or those who require extra time to navigate and interact with the content.

  • Structured Formatting
Keep the Structure Consistent for Section 508 Compliance

Maintain a consistent structure for websites and documents using proper heading levels (H1, H2, H3, etc.). This is a basic rule that most UI/UX designers follow to create a user-friendly website.

Legal Implications of Section 508 Non-Compliance

If an individual with disabilities files a complaint against a healthcare business, citing inaccessible websites, documents, or technology, it can potentially lead to investigations and lawsuits.

Organizations or businesses that fail to meet accessibility standards can face significant financial penalties. For the first violation, fines can reach up to USD 55,000, and subsequent violations can increase further to USD 110,000.

How Mirra Ensures Section 508 Compliance

  • Efficient Web & Mobile Healthcare Apps for Everyone

Our expertise lies in building intuitive and user-friendly web and mobile apps for patients, providers, players, and policymakers for all platforms (iOS or Android).

  • User-Centered Design

We believe in the power of design! Our user-centric UI/UX approach creates intuitive and engaging interfaces that cater to diverse needs.

  • Accessibility Testing

We conduct accessibility testing on existing software applications to identify and address any accessibility barriers. Alt text: Consult Mirra’s Experts to Ensure Section 508 Compliance

Consult Mirra’s Experts to Ensure Section 508 Compliance

Mirra Health Care understands the importance of accessible healthcare services for all and takes strict actions to ensure Section 508 compliance. By partnering with us, healthcare organizations can benefit from:

  • Increased patient satisfaction and loyalty
  • Reduced risk and legal protection
  • Enhanced brand reputation
  • Access to a broader patient demographic

The Bottom Line

Section 508 compliance is not just a legal requirement; it's a moral imperative for creating a more equitable healthcare system. By ensuring accessibility across all touchpoints, healthcare organizations can provide inclusive care while improving patient satisfaction, enhancing brand reputation, and reaching a wider patient base.

Additionally, accessibility standards are constantly evolving with digital advancements, with the Accessibility and Disability Act (ADA), Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and Section 508 likely to become even stricter in the coming years. This presents a crucial opportunity for businesses to take a proactive approach to accessibility. 

Mirra Health Care’s comprehensive solutions, coupled with our commitment to accessibility, empower healthcare organizations to deliver exceptional care for all individuals, regardless of their disabilities.

Partner with Mirra today to ensure accessible healthcare for everyone through Section 508 compliance!

* Prevalence of disability and disability Types | CDC. (2019, November 18). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How 508 Compliance is Shaping the Future of Inclusive Healthcare
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