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

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/

Raindrops on Roses – 3 Ways to Control Your Thoughts and Foster Resilience

3 Ways to Foster Resilience

Raindrops​ on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

 Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

​When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

As a child with pediatric brain cancer, I recall listening to this song while in the hospital over and over to get through the many struggles I encountered. 

This song describes something  that psychologists and counselors study and try to impart during therapy… the impact of our thoughts on our feelings and overall mood. 

Here I examine  3 ways to foster this resilience and pattern of thinking including  developing an optimistic outlook through interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy,meditating on scripture  and using imagery and mindfulness to foster psychological well-being.

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5 Simple Self-Care Practices to Help Improve Your Mental Health

Self-Care Practices for Mental Health

This is a guest post on 5 Simple Self-Care Practices by Brad Krause from SelfCaring.info. Brad is dedicated to helping people discover that we all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care.

When life gets busy, it can be hard to remember to take care of yourself. Many things can get in the way of putting yourself first, such as work commitments and time with friends and family. However, it’s important to practice self-care because if you don’t, your mental health can suffer. Here are some simple ways that you can improve your physical and mental health, so you can start living the best life possible.

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