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2016 Legal Landscape Update: Healthcare

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Overview In 2016, we saw an uptick in lawsuits related to digital accessibility across a growing number of industries, with most of the cases settling out of court. The healthcare sector was no exception, emphasizing the fact that every person, including those with disabilities affecting their ability to access digital services, must have equal access to healthcare. Accessibility Under the Affordable Care Act On May 18, a final rule for Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was published in the Federal Register. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of a variety of classifications, including disability, and works in conjunction with… Read More

The Path to Digital Accessibility for Healthcare Organizations

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Where do you even start when it comes to digital accessibility? It’s often helpful to look at the result and work backward, so let’s look at the results of structured negotiation by a large insurance provider as an example of what accessibility entails. WCAG 2.0 Level AA Standards The organization will consider their web content accessible if it meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 Level AA. Their content is tested during production and then monitored regularly to ensure compliance and usability. WCAG 2.0 Level AA concepts include: Ensure that a page is designed so it can be… Read More

Accessibility Legislation in the Healthcare Industry: Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act

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Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Section 1557 is not intended to stand alone but works in conjunction with other Federal anti-discrimination and civil rights legislation. Specifically, the law reiterates the prohibitions for discrimination already present in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. To that extent, it can be argued that everything covered under Section 1557 is already covered under current laws. We did an extensive series about Section 1557 in late 2016, which… Read More

Recent Legal Activity in the Healthcare Industry

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The past few years have been very busy in terms of litigation and structured settlements regarding accessibility and healthcare. There are great strides being made to provide more equal access to healthcare for persons with disabilities. The following cases are relevant to SSB’s area of expertise, that is, information and communications technology. US Health and Human Services In February 2016, the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) and other disability advocates filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts. They claimed that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and their sub-contractors violated the civil rights of blind and low vision Medicare… Read More

New Healthcare Tech is Amazing… Unless You Can’t Use It

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The healthcare industry is quickly becoming digitized, making data collection easier and more convenient for patients and doctors. Unfortunately, many of these amazing, time-saving solutions are not accessible to people with disabilities, particularly those who are blind or low vision. Digital Paperwork for New Patients Some medical offices are beginning to use kiosks or tablets to allow patients to sign in and complete required paperwork. This eliminates the hassle of reading messy handwriting and insurance hang-ups due to human error (ever had them get your birthday wrong? It’s a major pain!). However, it creates a privacy problem for blind or… Read More

Accessibility and Healthcare: Challenges for Patients and Providers

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One out of every five people in the U.S. – that’s 56 million Americans – has a disability, and those individuals need access to healthcare. But often those disabilities create challenges in accessing healthcare services and technology. In this new blog series we’ll examine some of the most important issues related to accessibility and the health care industry. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we discuss: Challenges with Healthcare Technology Although new technology makes many aspects of healthcare easier for patients, that new technology is not always accessible to persons with disabilities. For example, many healthcare providers are switching… Read More

What Will a Trump Presidency Mean for Digital Accessibility?

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In the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, many are wondering how the new administration will affect the digital accessibility space. In the short term, we see it as unlikely that a Trump presidency will have a major impact on the status quo. The Americans with Disabilities Act Donald Trump has never specifically addressed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so it is difficult to predict what his stance would be. In the past, scaling back rights for people with disabilities has proven to be politically unpopular. Given that neither advancing nor curtailing the ADA is among Trump’s… Read More

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act – Privacy Considerations

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This is the fifth and final article in a five-part series on accessibility and the Affordable Care Act. Please click here for parts one, two, three and four.  In responding to the most recent draft of the Section 1557 regulations, a variety of commenters noted that there were many accessibility issues associated with covered programs and services that also touched on patient confidentiality and privacy. For example: A blind patient is asked to complete required new patient documentation for their doctor. That documentation is inaccessible. Visual assistance is provided by a third party (nurse, friend, administrator) who helps the patient complete the forms. When… Read More

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act – Technical Standards

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This is the fourth article in a five-part series on accessibility and the Affordable Care Act. Please click here for parts one, two, three and five.  The Section 1557 regulations do not require conformance to a specific standard such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA requirements. HHS contemplated doing so in the creation of the regulation but “OCR has decided not to adopt specific accessibility standards at this time” (81 FR 31426). While the HHS does not require conformance to a particular set of standards, the office “strongly encourages covered entities that offer health programs and activities through electronic and information technology to… Read More

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act – Systems Covered

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This is the third article in a five-part series on accessibility and the Affordable Care Act. Please click here for parts one, two, four and five.  Section 1557 requires covered entities to make all health programs and activities provided through electronic and information technology accessible. This requirement is wide ranging and broadly relates to any aspects of the health care program or service provided in a digital form. This would include: Access to an online appointment system Accessible electronic billing and statements Comparison of health plans offered through a health insurance marketplace Information on the specific plan and benefits provided It is important to note that OCR… Read More

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