It seems that in the last few years, no industry is safe from plaintiffs actively seeking out web accessibility violations of small businesses. With monetary incentive of litigators and those filing claims or lawsuits, dental websites are no exception. An article from the California Dental Association (CDA) in December 2022 indicates a rising number of calls to the Risk Management Advice Line of the The Dentists Insurance Company (TDIC), specifically clinics and organizations in the dental industry coping with digital accessibility lawsuits. 

Dental practices have become a target of plaintiffs for non-compliance as their websites aren’t as frequently updated as other industries, like e-Commerce or any organizations with regular online additions. We’ve created some practical tips to create engaging dental websites, while also offering an accessibility best practice to implement to ensure design, user experience (UX), and your offering is clear, engaging, and drives Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Homepage: 3 W’s – Who, What, and Why of Dental Clinics’ Websites

One of the first and most critical pages of your website is your homepage, often functioning as the entry point for site visitors and potential patients. There are 3 core W principles that will help lower bounce rates of your homepage: Who, What, and Why. Before anyone scrolls down a homepage, dental websites should clearly state with a logo and brand the name of your dental health care clinic, what you do in a statement no more than 1-2 sentences, and why it matters to your target customer. 

The name and brand are self-explanatory, but a clear statement about what you do could be a marketing sentence or clear offering, also known as your Unique Sales Proposition (USP). Something like, “keeping dental hygiene a priority, so your smile is pure and clean,” indicates you focus on dental health care as it supports the cosmetic angle of oral hygiene. The “why” is usually in your what statement, with a strong CTA in the form of a button like, “book your appointment now.”

Also, make it easy for potential patients to contact you, fill out forms, or book an appointment with clear and precise buttons and links, and minimal form fields to fill out.

Accessibility Best Practice For Dental Websites’ Homepage

Make sure everything you have above the fold, or scrolling point, of your homepage is clear, easily accessible, and links can be easily be clicked and are up to date for ease of navigation. Ensure your website menu is visible and easily found for assistive technologies used by individuals with disabilities. Avoid pop-ups, as they can interfere and disrupt screen readers and braille displays that scan content for individuals with visual disabilities and impairments. 

Images & Videos on Dental Health Care Websites

Using the right combination of imagery and video can without question create an innovative and interactive experience for any site visitors and potential patients of dental clinics. Sources indicate that soothing tones and colors are often the most successful for websites of dental practices, and of course demonstrative videos, before and after images of patients who have benefitted from your dental services, along with a guided tour of your practice can all help engage and build trust with your target audience.

Accessibility Best Practice for Images & Videos 

You never know if someone with a visual disability or impairment will land on any one of your dental websites’ pages, so ensuring visual content is accessible is paramount. Always include alt text for images, which is a clear descriptive statement indicating precisely what’s visible in a picture.

Alt text ensures inclusion of people with visual disabilities that may use AI-powered screen readers to discern visual content, dictating the description to site visitors. But alt text also boosts SEO image ranking and increases traffic to your site if the alt text content includes keywords or insights that people might be searching online.

For video content of dental websites, particularly videos of treatments, interviews of staff or dental clinics’ management, and especially testimonials, providing closed captioning or a transcript of video content is without question a best practice. Individuals with hearing impairments could be engaged in the visual experience of videos, but providing the context with captions or transcripts could be critical for them to fully understand what they’re seeing. 

A source indicates that a California-based web accessibility lawsuit was filed against a dental health care clinic when a tester, (an individual hired by litigators to ensure sites are free of barriers for individuals with disabilities), attempted to engage in customer review videos. As the videos lacked captioning, the plaintiff was deterred from engaging with the video, and indicated he felt “difficulty and discomfort.”  TDIC settled the claim, as tester litigation is an accepted practice in California. Bottom line: used captions on video or it could cost dental websites a non-compliance lawsuit.

As well, ensure the function for automated disablement of video content is on so that anyone with epilepsy can bypass concerns or triggered seizures. Similarly, make sure that audio muting for your entire website is a quickly accessible function, as those with hearing impairments using devices could experience discomfort like headaches or other reactions. 

Dental Health Care Industry Standards: Certifications & Expertise

There are thousands of dental clinics all over the U.S. and worldwide, but the ones that truly position themselves with credibility are the quickest and most effective in building trust with online website visitors. While some dental practices focus on cosmetic dentistry and aesthetic treatments, their blog provides a vast range of collateral on insights related to dental health care and how to strengthen the look of your teeth and smile with good oral health and hygiene. 

In addition, creating a strong profile on your About Us page that outlines any specific certifications, expertise, and special accommodations you can provide to customers, is also a vantage point for dental websites. For example, if you can help potential patients understand how they can acquire treatment if they are not insured, you’re providing a doorway to dental health care to anyone without dental coverage.

Accessibility Best Practice: Content About Expertise & Certifications

Firstly, ensure all your site content is accurate and clear, use simple language, avoid jargon, and keep all headers and header code and tags precise to ensure ease of access for screen readers and keyboard navigation. Since the focus here is on text, enabling features like content highlighting allows users to identify titles and links with ease, particularly through keyboard shortcuts. 

Offering the option to adjust the font family, size, spacing, line height, color and contrast of text and background, and alignment of text can all help individuals with visual, learning, or cognitive disabilities read and process the content more efficiently. 

Ensure HTML tags and ARIA code are implemented accurately to allow screen readers to identify how to read the content sequentially and present it with the greatest accuracy. Ensure all grammar and punctuation are precise, as errors will also deter a frictionless translation of content with screen readers, braille displays, and keyboard navigation. Creating a sitemap and intuitive navigational design of the website will also ensure keyboard navigation is fluid.

Testimonials and Before & After Pages of Dental Websites

Reputation marketing isn’t a trend. More and more potential customers will trust the word of an experienced patient with hands-on satisfaction than other sources of insight or feedback. Creating a page dedicated to testimonials and reviews that include before and after images will help increase conversion and revenue bottom line, along with creating a fully dedicated before and after gallery for potential patients to browse. 

Accessibility Best Practice for Testimonials and Before & After Gallery of Dental Health Care Websites

Make sure your page is diverse in collateral, with written testimonials, videos, and potentially even audio recordings of customer reviews. Create a rich range of multimedia options that provide potential patients with an impression of first-hand experiences in dental clinics. Your website then creates an inclusive user and customer experience to anyone considering your dental services, whether they prefer to read, hear, or watch video reviews and testimonials.

Just make sure that you still apply any of the suggested best practices for elements like text, such as the ability to adjust fonts, sizes, layout of content, spacing and color contrast, as well as muting or disabling video and audio content, or closed captioning for videos. 

UserWay’s Widget on Dental Health Care Websites

UserWay’s Widget 4.0 provides dental health care websites with all of the essential elements of accessibility within one solution. From adapting color contrast, to activating Dyslexia-friendly fonts, pausing animation or video, or enabling keyboard navigation, the UserWay widget provides a vast range of accessibility options website visitors can easily select to ensure an inclusive UX. The solution empowers dental practices to scan their websites for any violations, suggesting remediations. 

With UserWay’s human-in-the-loop services, dental clinics can also employ manual audits of their website content to ensure ADA compliance and make sure all content at any growth stage is accessible to any online user.

Answers to Common FAQs

Can dental practices be sued for ADA violations and non-compliance of dental websites?

Yes. According to Titles I and III of ADA guidelines, all public-facing websites must be accessible to all individuals attempting to browse or engage with the online venue. The upside is that by creating an accessible and inclusive website, dental clinics can expand their reach, target more audiences, and extend earning potential. Using an accessibility widget that drives inclusion can help simplify any quick adjustments diverse user needs may require.

What are some best practices to create websites for dental clinics that are engaging and accessible?

Dental practices can ensure their homepage is clear, concise and targets their audience with precise messages, while also allowing visitors to book appointments and fill out forms with ease. To ensure accessibility of screen readers, braille displays, and keyboard navigation, avoid pop-ups, automated video or animation, and make sure language is straightforward. Grammar and punctuation should be precise, and links should all be active, while headers are easily identifiable with HTML tags and ARIA code.

How can I ensure image and video content of dental websites is inclusive and accessible?

Make sure images of all kinds include alt text that clearly and concisely describes the content of pictures in a few lines, or a couple of sentences. Video content should allow closed captions or transcripts, and if necessary automating disablement of video or animation is ideal in considering conditions like epilepsy.