Section 504: Who Does New HHS Web Accessibility Rule Apply to?

Who must be compliant with the new HHS rule that requires, among other things, website accessibility?

The Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) just issued an update to existing regulation for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance.

The new HHS rule has several requirements, but the one we specialize in is digital accessibility.

Namely, the HHS now requires all entities receiving federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services to make their websites, web content, and mobile apps WCAG 2.1 AA conformant.

The good news is there are 5 important content exceptions which will lighten your work load:

  1. archived web content
  2. preexisting electronic documents
  3. content posted by an independent third-party
  4. individualized documents that are password-protected
  5. preexisting social media posts

So who exactly is covered by the new May 2024 rule issued by HHS? Let’s start with the HHS.gov list and then detail who else might be covered.

HHS.gov List: Recipients of Federal financial assistance

The HHS.gov specifically lists the following entities as those who must comply with the new rule’s requirements:

  • Health care providers participating in CHIP and Medicaid programs
  • Hospitals and nursing homes (recipients under Medicare Part A)
  • Medical, preventative, and mental health services covered under Medicare Part B
  • Medicare Advantage Plans (e.g., HMOs and PPOs) (recipients under Medicare Part C)
  • Prescription Drug Plan sponsors and Medicare Advantage Drug Plans (recipients under Medicare Part D)
  • Human or social service agencies
  • Insurers who are participating in the Marketplaces and receiving premium tax credits.

But this isn’t exhaustive. Entities receiving federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) encompass a broad array of organizations and institutions.

Let’s outline many of the companies, institutions, organizations, agencies, non-profits, programs, and others who may be covered by the new HHS rule and have to make their digital assets accessible.

Healthcare Providers

  • Hospitals
  • Community health centers
  • Private medical practices
  • Nursing homes
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Mental health facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Dental clinics
  • Home healthcare agencies

Educational Institutions

  • Medical schools
  • Nursing schools
  • Public health schools
  • Allied health programs
  • Universities and colleges with health-related programs

Research Organizations

  • Biomedical research institutions
  • Public health research organizations
  • Universities conducting health-related research
  • Non-profit research foundations

Social Services Agencies

  • Child welfare agencies
  • Foster care programs
  • Adoption agencies
  • Substance abuse treatment programs
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Homeless shelters

Public Health Departments

  • State health departments
  • Local health departments
  • Tribal health departments
  • Regional health authorities

Insurance Programs

  • Medicaid programs
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • State health insurance exchanges

Human Services Programs

  • Head Start programs
  • Community Action Agencies
  • Programs for the elderly (e.g., Meals on Wheels)
  • Programs for individuals with disabilities

Faith-Based Organizations

  • Faith-based health clinics
  • Community service programs sponsored by religious institutions

Tribal Organizations

  • Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities
  • Tribal health clinics
  • Tribal social service programs

Non-Profit Organizations

  • Non-profit hospitals
  • Health advocacy organizations
  • Disease-specific foundations (e.g., American Cancer Society)
  • Community-based health organizations

Miscellaneous Entities

  • Migrant health programs
  • Rural health initiatives
  • Family planning clinics
  • Health workforce training programs
  • Maternal and child health programs

These examples illustrate the diverse range of entities that may receive federal financial assistance from HHS, all of which would be subject to the new rule.

Resources

Do you need help with digital accessibility?

We offer the manual audits, remediation, and user testing services your organization needs to make your websites, documents, and apps WCAG 2.1 AA conformant ahead of your compliance deadline.

Visit Accessible.org to learn more about how we can help you take care of website accessibility along with your documents and other digital assets.

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