4 Reasons Why Accessible Healthcare Documents Matter

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Making any decision related to your health is important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. You need time to weigh options, review information, and–once you make a decision–have an opportunity to know what you’re signing. For many people, standard print materials are just fine. But, there is a large subset of the population who rely on accessible healthcare documents to make their decisions.

There are many reasons to offer braille, large print, audio, and accessible PDF versions of your documents. We’d like to highlight a few.

Doctor explaining a healthcare website on a laptop to a patient

1. Patients Know What They’re Signing

Imagine going to the hospital for an important procedure and the administrative staff asks for your signature acknowledging that you understand their arbitration agreement. You ask to see it but they tell you it’s only available in a language you don’t read. But, they’re happy to help! They briefly and cheerfully describe what their arbitration agreement entails. Unfortunately, you still don’t get the opportunity to read it yourself. You just have to take them at their word. Would you feel comfortable signing the document saying you understand the agreement?

Having accessible healthcare documents on-hand provides your patients with the peace of mind knowing that they can read all of the necessary material before going through with an anxiety-inducing procedure.

2. It Helps Avoid Lawsuits

We’re using an arbitration agreement as our example because there was a recent court ruling surrounding this very document.

A gentleman with a visual impairment entered a skilled nursing facility for rehab after a car accident. Events happened and he later sued the facility for negligence. The facility asked the Superior Court of Pennsylvania to honor the arbitration agreement but, since the patient didn’t have a chance to fully understand the document, the court ruled that the arbitration agreement wasn’t valid.

All of this could’ve been avoided. If this facility offered this gentleman braille, large print, or audio versions of their documents, the court could’ve ruled in the facility’s favor and the patient’s complaint would’ve gone to arbitration. The parties involved could’ve saved millions of dollars.

3. It Shows You Care

It seems like every healthcare facility and insurance company emphasizes how much they care about and how well they care for their patients. If that’s truly the case, it makes sense to have standard forms and marketing material available in accessible formats.

You can back up your company’s claims about caring by having alternatives to standard print. It shows that you care and want to offer people with disabilities the same independence given to their sighted counterparts.

4. It’s the Law

We may have mentioned this once or twice but, did you know that in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law? And, furthermore, did you know that this law requires organizations to provide standard print documents in a format that people with disabilities can read? It’s true!

The ADA says that organizations must provide “appropriate auxiliary aids and services for individuals…” with disabilities. This includes, but is not limited to, braille, large print, audio, accessible PDFs, qualified interpreters, and closed captioning.

But, did you also know there’s legislation that compliments the ADA but is healthcare-specific? The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) require that healthcare providers and facilities offer their documents in a format that patients can understand, too.

Several healthcare and accessibility related icons in cogs

Accessibility Matters

There’s no denying that offering accessible healthcare documents is the right thing to do. But, beyond that, you’ll be able to “walk-the-walk” and prove that your organization truly cares about its patients. Having alternative formats will also help you avoid accessibility-related lawsuits. 

There’s no downside to keeping accessible healthcare documents on-hand.

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This post was written by Jessica Sanders

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