In the realm of health care, digital accessibility plays a pivotal role in providing equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities. By designing websites, mHealth apps and documents with careful attention to detail, barriers that impede the user experience of disabled individuals can be eliminated.
As health care services increasingly rely on digital platforms, the need for digital accessibility becomes even more crucial. Every patient, including those with disabilities, should have equitable access to health care information and services. To achieve this, health care providers must adhere to digital accessibility standards and guidelines.
This also includes all health care documents being accessible through a proper document remediation process. In this article, we will explore six tips to foster compliance with digital accessibility in health care, emphasizing its significance and offering practical guidance for health care providers to meet the diverse needs of their patients.
Why is Digital Accessibility Vital in the Health Care Industry?
Presently, approximately 15% of the global population lives with a disability. Studies have revealed that individuals with disabilities are less likely to receive preventive medical services and often express lower satisfaction with their health care experiences. These disparities can be attributed, in part, to their limited access to digital services due to their specific health conditions.
Such barriers encompass a range of challenges, including blindness and low vision, hearing and speech impairments, motor and mobility disabilities, and learning and cognitive disabilities. Furthermore, even individuals with temporary disabilities, such as those recovering from a broken arm or undergoing cataract surgery, face difficulties accessing digital services. These individuals constitute a substantial portion of the population and require regular health care, just like any other person.
For hospitals, the absence of digital services catering to people with disabilities may lead to numerous issues. These may include lawsuits from legal firms and advocacy groups, penalties for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), loss of government funding, reputational damage and a decline in patient influx.
Tips to Ensure Digital Accessibility in Health Care
Familiarize Yourself with Accessibility Guidelines
Health care providers should develop a comprehensive understanding of accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. These guidelines offer valuable insights on enhancing web content accessibility for individuals with disabilities. By adhering to these guidelines, providers can ensure that their websites, patient portals and digital tools are accessible to all.
Create an Accessible Website and App
Craft a website and mobile app that prioritizes accessibility for people with disabilities. Incorporate features such as alt-text for images, captions for videos and keyboard navigation options. Identify and address potential barriers that may hinder individuals with disabilities. Utilize large fonts, and enable zoom functionality up to 300% while keeping text visible and images scaling without resolution loss.
Add a color-blind mode, night and day display options, and speech recognition. Ensure that all links are clearly distinguishable, and the website’s navigation design guarantees a seamless experience for all users. Employ simple and easily understandable writing styles. For instance, the digital requirements of the UK’s National Health Service recommend aiming website text at a reading age of a 12-year-old.
Integrate Assistive Technology
Assistive technology plays a vital role in helping individuals with disabilities and the elderly perform tasks such as typing, mouse movement, screen reading and using touch-screen smartphones, which they might find challenging. By allowing integration with assistive technology, health care websites enable users to book appointments, access information about available services and obtain test results.
Integrate AAC Devices
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices empower individuals with speech deficiencies to navigate online content. Similar to assistive technology, AAC devices facilitate basic tasks like appointment booking and researching medical services.
Provide Alternate Content Formats
Health care providers should offer alternate content formats, including audio and video recordings, to assist patients who struggle with reading or processing written information. Additionally, providers must ensure that any visual information, such as diagrams or charts, is accompanied by descriptive text, rendering it accessible to individuals with visual impairments.
Involve Individuals with Disabilities in Content Testing
One common mistake health care organizations make when addressing digital accessibility is assuming that they can meet the requirements without engaging actual users with disabilities. Instead, it is crucial to actively involve individuals with various disabilities to test websites, apps, and mobile versions. They can provide valuable insights through manual and functional testing, identifying and reporting on any issues that may arise.
Digital Literacy and Accessible Health Care
In a technologically advanced society where digital tools are essential for communication and information access, digital literacy is crucial in enabling people to thrive. Unfortunately, technology intimidation among elderly people and others with little tech literacy sometimes has a negative impact on patient care. The key to overcoming this obstacle is educating people about digital health care options. Senior citizens who live distant from health care providers, for example, can benefit from such alternatives. Real-time medical advice, reduced risk of infection, and remote access are some factors that may encourage people to adopt digital health care.
Getting started with the journey of digital accessibility in healthcare can seem intimidating, but putting these suggestions into practice provides a useful beginning point. Health care providers may promote inclusivity, close care gaps and enable everyone to access and use health care services by guaranteeing digital accessibility.