Great New Service from Overcomers Counseling!

Hello and happy new year to all of my buddies! I hope everyone had a terrific holiday and is looking ahead to a prosperous year full of growth and opportunity. In this month’s issue of the newsletter I want to introduce my newest service offering. This service will help you avoid lawsuits and become compliant in your online counseling practice and product offerings.

If you have read my previous newsletters you understand online accessibility provides important independence and access to counseling services in an ethical manner.

Furthermore, you also understand that having ADA compliant web sites will help you avoid costly lawsuits.

Lawsuits are on the rise

With the rise of online commerce and virtual service offerings, we see a corresponding rise in law suits targeting those who conduct business virtually. A study of lawsuits pertaining to accessibility in 2021 found that accessibility lawsuits are filed at the rate of 10 per day, with an increase of 15% in 2021 . The highest rates of these suits are found in those with ecommerce web sites.

Additionally, data on these lawsuits excludes the practice of demand letters, which occurs when the individual or company demands money to stop a lawsuit. Consensus exists that the practice of demand letters occurs much more frequently than the filing of lawsuits.

What about online healthcare and counseling practices? In the past 3 years, there has been a 300% increase in lawsuits targeting online accessibility for healthcare practices with 1 in 5 lawsuits relating to these medical companies.

Compliance

Thus, online compliance continues to be an important way to avoid costly lawsuits for the healthcare practice.

I know that many of you are confused about how to implement a compliant solution in your practice. That’s why I am excited to help you with my newest offering of website auditing. Website auditing includes reporting to give you the actionable steps you need to take to make your online content accessible. If you are interested in this service please contact me for a quote.

My passion continues to be helping persons with mental health issues through therapy and counseling. Additionally, I currently have openings for those seeking therapy. If interested fill out the contact form at my web site at www.kimberlyduff.com I specialize in disability and chronic illness, military and their family members and Christian counseling.

Sources:

https://www.accessibility.works/blog/digital-website-ada-cases-lawsuit-statistics-2021/

Happy holidays from Overcomers Counseling, LLC!

Happy holidays from Overcomers Counseling, LLC!

I’m writing this month to spread a little holiday cheer. And also, to give you a quick explanation of the online shopping experience for persons who are blind and use a screen reader.

First, I want to say that I know the holidays can be a stressful time. From both a practical as well as family standpoint. Remember to practice your self-care routine by taking a few deep breaths. Or, taking a break with a nice cup of warm tea or hot cocoa. This really does help you relax and reset so you are ready to face the holiday hustle and bustle.

Of course, many of us are shopping in person or online as we buy gifts for friends and family. As a person who uses a screen reader, I realize the process for online shopping is different for those of us who are blind. Today I will use the example of the Amazon shopping experience.

As I stated in my previous newsletter, screen readers automatically read the page top to bottom and left to right. So, when I go to the Amazon site, it is somewhat of an auditory party in my ears as I listen to all the content on the page. So, the first thing I need to do is to zero in on what I’m shopping for.

Let’s say I want to find a women’s hoodie sweatshirt. I start by using the “c” key to find the category combo box. Next, I use alt and the right arrow key to open the category choices and arrow down to ”women or women’s clothing’”. After this category is selected, I press enter. Next, I tab over to the search field and type in the text such as ”women’s hoodie”. I then press enter to run the search.

Afterwards, the search results will come up and I can read down the page. I can also use the “tab” or “h” key to move through links or headings. Of course, product descriptions may or may not be enough for me to make the best choice when shopping. In these cases I have my sighted family members offer their opinion before adding items to my cart.

Once the choice is made, I use arrow keys and combo boxes to choose my color and quantity. I then hit the “b” for the add to cart followed by the “proceed to checkout” button. As you can see, it isn’t easy to shop online with a screen reader!

In conclusion, I hope everyone has a blessed holiday season filled with God’s goodness and blessings. As always, feel free to contact me if I can do anything to help. Go to https://www.kimberlyduff.com and fill out my contact form.

Take a holiday time out by taking a moment to listen to this song by Amy Grant. In it she describes Mary’s search for peace in the middle of her Christmas turmoil.

October 2022 Accessibility Newsletter

Overcomers Counseling

I recall the first time I met someone who was blind; the event occurred following the brain surgery in which I awoke totally blind myself. I became increasingly amazed by this individual. He seemed to have almost superhuman skills that enabled him to navigate independently using a cane and tell time using a talking watch.

I also recall the first time I attempted to use a computer with a speech synthesizer. It was so difficult to understand anything it said. I needed the speed to be slowed down to a snail’s speed in order to recognize the words spoken.

I assume many of my readers are like me. In the early days of blindness, you may have never met anyone without sight. Perhaps, just recently introduced to the terms “accessible web site” or “screen reader.” Thus, I thought it helpful to devote the current newsletter to describing the experience of using a screen reader to my accessibility audience.

Screen Readers

First, screen readers are used by individuals who are totally blind or those without enough vision to read the text on the screen. The 2 main screen readers that are used by the blind in the US are NVDA and JAWS. Another screen reader that won’t be further mentioned is called Window Eyes. I personally use JAWS. This application was first introduced to me back in the days of DOS and floppy disks. It has been used throughout my transition to Windows, Office, and the internet. NVDA is a free program that stands for Non-Visual Desktop Access. It is highly recommended by users but unfamiliar to the author.

So, what happens when the individual with a screen reader visits a webpage?

The screen reader begins to read the page from left to right, line by line. The screen reader user is able to use keyboard commands to explore the site. Moving up and down, word by word depending on the information needed. Keyboard commands can also be used to move by headings, elements, combo boxes, check boxes or to find text fields or buttons. Additionally, the user can use a command to get a list of links on the page. As well as find the desired link and press enter to navigate to the link location. So, I think this explanation illustrates the process adequately without getting into too much detail.

To prevent boring my audience with more details, information on online shopping will be explained further in next month’s newsletter. Yet, I can reassure everyone that this procedure occurs quickly and automatically to the experienced screen reader user.

Conclusion

In conclusion, accessibility consultation is available through Overcomers Counseling, LLC. Current openings for counseling during the holiday season can be booked by filling out the contact form located at https://www.counselingbykimberly.com/contact/.

September 2022 Accessibility Newsletter

Accessible Communication for Online Counseling Services

This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here, I plan to highlight the application of accessibility to online products and services and the importance of an accessibility statement on your company web site.

In a 1996 response to a memo requesting clarification about the topic of online accessibility the DOJ offered the following guidance: “Covered entities under the ADA are required to provide effective communication, regardless of whether they generally communicate through print media, audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet. Covered entities that use the Internet for communications regarding their programs, goods, or services must be prepared to offer those communications through accessible means as well.”

One way professionals can start to promote this cause is by providing an accessibility statement on their web site. This statement explains the company’s commitment to making their content accessible to everyone and should contain a phone number an individual can call if he or she encounters a barrier while on the site. The statement should also contain information about the company’s accessibility policy as well as any ADA compliant products offered. Check out the following page for help in the accessibility statement process:

https://www.w3.org/WAI/planning/statements/generator/#create

Kimberly also stands ready to offer consultation for those who need help in implementing accessibility in their health practice. Feel free to reach out with your needs and concerns. Clinicians and medical providers can join Kimberly’s accessibility email list by going to: https://www.counselingbykimberly.com/join-mailing-list/

Overcomers Counseling, LLC has current openings for counseling in the areas of Christian counseling, disability and chronic illness, and military and their family members. Please visit the following web site to contact Kimberly with any questions or referral information: https://www.counselingbykimberly.com

References::

https://www.lflegal.com/2013/02/access-info-pages/

https://www.w3.org/WAI/planning/statements/generator/#create

Accessible Communication for Online Counseling Services

Accessible Communication for Online Counseling Services

As we consider online counseling for persons who are blind or visually impaired, we must first ask: Shall we consider online mental health counseling a business service or a medical service? Since mental health counseling coverage typically falls under the individual’s health policy, I maintain that mental health counseling can be considered a medical service and will most likely be governed by future policies that pertain to health and medical practices.

Here, I examine the current status of the law as it pertains to communication with persons with disabilities and medical services. The ADA requires that Title II entities (State and local governments) and Title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally as effective as communication with people without disabilities.

In implementing communication solutions, the business or public accommodation should first consider the person’s preferred method of communication. Such as speech electronic text or large print.

• For people who are blind, have vision loss, or are deaf-blind, this includes providing a qualified reader; information in large print, Braille, or electronically for use with a computer screen-reading program.

• The key provision of the communication rules is that the person with the disability should be able to fully communicate to the covered entity and to fully understand the information conveyed by the covered entity resulting in a free exchange of information with both parties.

What do the courts require with regard to access to medical care? Under the Barrier Free Healthcare Initiative, the courts have recently targeted the enforcement of the law for communication with persons who are deaf or have hearing loss, physical barriers for persons with mobility impairments and discrimination towards persons with HIV/AIDS. The most recent rulings on these matters can be found at https://www.ada.gov/usao-agreements.htm

Here we see the courts repeatedly find in favor of the plaintiffs who were denied communication and physical access to medical care. Examples include Brookside Rehabilitation and Nursing Center Settlement agreement which is a case where the medical facility was required to provide an interpreter for the person who was deaf or hearing impaired. The North Ft. Mitchell Settlement agreement required the defendant to provide proper auxiliary aids and services to the person with a sensory disability. Additionally, there are many legal cases that found that physical barriers must be eliminated for persons with physical disabilities. Thus, the courts currently are focusing on accessibility for these populations. Accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, such as online mental health and virtual medical treatments, has not yet been addressed. However, one can assume that the courts will eventually find that accessibility online is equally important to make certain persons who are blind and visually impaired have equal access to online mental health and medical care especially considering the difficulty that exists for these individuals getting out of the house and accessing medical offices .

Are you looking for accessibility guidance? Kimberly can be contacted for networking, conversation and consultation on the topic of accessibility. To contact Kimberly go to: https://www.counselingbykimberly.com/contact/

Clinicians and medical providers can join Kimberly’s accessibility email list by going to: https://www.counselingbykimberly.com/join-mailing-list/

Overcomers Counseling, LLC has current openings for target populations of Christian counseling, disability and chronic illness, and military and their family members. Visit the following web site to contact Kimberly with any questions or referral information: https://www.counselingbykimberly.com

Welcome to my February 2022 accessibility newsletter.

This month I want to highlight why making your private practice web site or online platform accessible is simply the right thing to do even if you haven’t been given a legal challenge at this point. I want to give credit to disability rights attorney Lainie Feingold. Much of this current content comes from her webinar from 12/10/2021. You can learn more about her practice and the current state of the law with regard to accessibility by going to her web site at www.lfl-egal.com.

How should we view the concept of access and accessibility? First, therapists should recognize that accessibility is a civil right of the person with a disability. Digital accessibility means that the person who is blind or visually impaired can utilize the digital information independently without asking for help. This right of the individual grants them privacy, independence, and security. A web site that cannot be accessed independently creates a barrier for the person, thereby breaking the person’s right to privacy, independence, and security. Privacy is broken when I need to ask a sighted person to assist me with completing a task. Of course, this means I am not able to be independent when I must ask for this assistance. Security is broken because I must typically give the person access to user names or passwords in this process.

We know that the law solidifies these civil rights through Title II and Title III of the ADA. Title II mandates that federal, state, and local governments make their web sites accessible to the public. Private practices that accept federal funds through Medicaid, Medicare, or other federal or state programs are expected to make their online services accessible to the public.

Title III applies to the business that offers a service or a product to the public. Last month we highlighted how this act easily applies to the brick and mortar business and any architectural barriers. We recognized that the guidelines for the online business or practice may not be as clear-cut as technology and the law are rapidly evolving.

I agree with accessibility attorney Lainey Feingold who states that it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive in these circumstances. Therapists who practice online or who have a web site should make a good faith effort to promote accessibility to avoid future legal conflicts and to promote the dignity and civil rights of persons with disabilities. Therapists should recognize that accessibility is about people and about promoting an individual’s dignity and sense of independence. As therapists, we are bound by an ethical code that requires that we promote the ethical concepts of autonomy, beneficence, and non-malfeasance. Providing information in an accessible manner promotes these concepts as it enables the person who is blind to be independent and to be empowered to accomplish a task.

Are you looking for accessibility guidance? Kimberly can be contacted for networking, conversation and consultation on the topic of accessibility. To contact Kimberly go to: https://www.counselingbykimberly.com/contact/

It’s a New Year. Is your website accessible?

I often describe the conversation with my mom that occurred after the surgery that left me totally blind in which I asked her, “How can I do anything if I’m blind? How can I have a job or a family?” My mother’s response framed my future as she stated, “You can still do anything you wanted to do before; you’ll just have to do things differently now.”

My name is Kimberly Duff and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (LPCCRC). These credentials mean that I am licensed to work as a counselor in Georgia and I have special education and certification in disability and chronic illness. Throughout my education and professional development I have paid particular attention to the advances in assistive technologies and also the changing laws and guidelines that have direct impact on my practice as a counselor and my life as a person with disabilities.

Did you know in 2020, 10,982 Title III ADA lawsuits were filed in federal courts. In 2019, a suit was filed by a visually impaired individual against Domino’s Pizza because he was unable to order a pizza through the company’s website in 2015. Domino’s was ordered to bring their website into compliance with industry standards for website accessibility and pay the plaintiff $4,000 in penalties.

Federal district courts have held that businesses are “places of public accommodation” and as such, must reasonably accommodate the disabled in accessing services. They violate ADA when they fail to make their websites and physical locations accessible for disabled customers.

Privately owned therapy offices are also considered “places of public accommodation” and are subject to Title III regulations as set forth in the ADA. This includes websites if the website provides the address or directions to the office, provides a phone number for the office, offers an online scheduling system for prospective clients, and provides a printable copy of an informed consent document or other intake paperwork.

The key provision of the communication rules is that the person with the disability should be able to fully communicate to the covered entity and to fully understand the information conveyed by the covered entity resulting in a free exchange of information with both parties.

So, what should a counselor or practice manager like you do? Where should you start? Just like my mother told me, you can still do anything you want to do, you just need to do things differently now.

This newsletter will bring these issues to the forefront and offer clear guidance on how you can comply with current best practices and legal standards and also better serve your clients with disabilities. I hope to encourage dialogue to foster understanding and change within the counseling community. If you are ready to implement accessibility in your online course, counseling platform, or electronic forms, contact me so we can get started. To see if my accessibility services are the right fit for your practice, please fill out the contact form on my website here

Sources:

https://www.camft.org/Resources/Legal-Articles/Chronological-Article-List/breaking-down-digital-barriers-to-care

https://www.gibbonslawalert.com/2021/08/16/robles-v-dominos-the-saga-continues-on-remand-district-court-grants-partial-summary-judgment-to-plaintiff-solidifying-the-scope-of-ada-website-liability-in-the-ninth-circuit/

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/website-compliance-with-the-ada-gil-v-5213145/

https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca9/17-55504/17-55504-2019-01-15.html


Are you a clinician or medical professional interested in receiving regular updates on web site and online accessibility for the blind and visually impaired? Subscribe to Kimberly’s blog by going to https://www.counselingbykimberly.com/join-mailing-list/