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Harness your 508 accessibility knowledge

Gary Iverson, 508 Accessibility Senior Manager | November 17, 2017

Without the proper knowledge or perspective around 508 accessibility, some health plans view a “tagged” document as good enough for 508 compliance. Others promote a more “willing to learn” strategy to discover who needs accessibility, how it provides equal access to members and how everyone can benefit from it. Where does your company stand?

Willing to learn

In many ways, 508 accessibility is an area of ongoing learning. It continually challenges us to answer the question: how do you apply what you have learned to everyday experiences. The answer is to build not only your knowledge, but also your perspective.

Try this exercise to give yourself some perspective on usability: using only the arrow keys on your keyboard, navigate one of your PDF documents. Observe where the cursor moves and how long it takes. Can you make your way through the proper sequence of content down rows and across columns? Can you open your bookmark panel? Can you get to the URL links?

The ability to navigate a document is an important feature to a person with disabilities. Sometimes it is all about your perspective and an understanding of what you take for granted.

Harness your 508 accessibility knowledge

Providing equal access to members

Federally funded programs supported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) such as Medicare, Part D, and the Health Insurance Marketplace, have specific standards that require healthcare providers to apply accessibility to electronic documents.

CMS provides guidelines for preparing and publishing PDFs so that the user experience for anyone – with or without disabilities – is equal. These requirements specify that content must be tagged and sequenced in a way that is compatible with screen readers and other accessibility software.

To accomplish and satisfy this requirement, you need a commitment to make it part of your business strategy and the expertise to add accessibility to your documents.

Nondiscrimination, multi-language insert, and how 1557 and 508 apply

I’ve reviewed many documents where the nondiscrimination (1557) and multi-language services (MLI) pages are an image. Why is that an issue?

The nondiscrimination is typically half a page followed by the MLI – which can be multiple pages and include 15 to 27 languages (CMS requirement in the states being marketed to). We have guided our clients and corrected the nondiscrimination and MLI pages many times - including composing it in a desktop publishing application. This process ensures that the entire document is remediated for accessibility and fully compliant.

Mishandling the nondiscrimination and MLI pages are where best practice can go terribly wrong. When these pages are created as an image and placed into a document section or page, accessibility is dropped in the process. The result is content on the page describing nondiscrimination, while the page itself is not accessible. It’s hypocritical and isolates those with disabilities. This is not how the information should be presented or the intent of the legal requirement.

How everyone can benefit from 508

Accessibility is built into everything you touch in today’s digital world - apps for your phone, your house, security and so much more. Who would have thought that having the option to enlarge the font size or change the color on your cell phone is an accessibility-driven feature? It is an equal benefit for everyone.  

How your plan supports and promotes 508 accessibility provides a platform for being inclusive. Not only is it a must from a compliance perspective, but it is also the right thing to do to benefit ALL your members.

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