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Perspectives on Achieving Digital Accessibility in the Healthcare Experience


Increasingly, topics like digital responsibility are entering the conversation around digital transformation.  “This responsibility has evolved from primarily focusing on data privacy to now include accessibility, diversity, and inclusion as well. Really, it’s about being more proactive, less reactive. You want to take it from being aspirational to ground truth – how do we make this happen, how do we address some of the concerns, how do we meet consumer and employee expectations, and how do we even understand what those expectations are today,” shares Kim Williams-Czopek, director of digital strategy at Perficient.

Accessibility of digital experiences is receiving more focus and adoption now. An indication is that more organizations buying tech are committing to accessibility in 2022 due to the increasing number of businesses creating diversity and inclusion programs which include providing various forms of accessibility, such as equal access to websites for persons with disabilities.

Also in 2022, accessibility has become an essential responsibility. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice released a statement advising that all businesses open to the public prioritize website accessibility, so persons with disabilities can access vital website content. And it points to a number of entities, including hospitals and medical offices, which have the responsibility to “keep pace with the rapidly changing technology of our times.”

Considering Unique Challenges

Healthcare organizations play key roles in offering access to care, employing, and motivating skilled workers, and acting as social safety nets in their communities. They, along with life sciences organizations, serve on the front lines of addressing health equity.

To reach all consumers where they are, which is increasingly online, mobile, and outside of traditional care settings, it’s important to consider the diverse user stories and unique challenges that may impact how website content is accessed by persons with disabilities (now 1 in 4 in the United States). To understand those unique challenges and stories, we need to ask questions such as:

  • How easy it is for anyone to access medical treatments, symptom checkers and providers?
  • Have we included captions, audio descriptions and transcripts within our live and pre-recorded videos for people with hearing loss and dyslexia?
  • Is our healthcare content written so that anyone can understand it?
  • Do we have forms missing descriptive labels and instructions?
  • Will our error messages help our website users avoid clicking on the wrong button?

Here are some important best practices and essential Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for making digital experiences accessible for website users:

Situational Challenges

Confusing medical or industry jargon and/or using complex sentences limits accessibility.

  • Write in plain language, for the sixth-grade level, noting that many healthcare users are not native English speakers
  • Write inclusively (older person, not senior or senior citizen)
  • Write person first (people with autism, not autistic people)
  • Remove idioms and jargon
  • Provide a glossary (or on page help text) when specific terminology must be used

Temporary Impairments

An accident limits the ability to navigate a mobile device.

  • Design for keyboard users
  • Design for voice search
  • Give users alternatives to drag and drop interactions
  • Avoid swiping motions (use tap instead)

Health Conditions

Pain, fatigue, memory loss, etc. can impact the duration of web use.

  • Design simple interactions
  • Reduce or eliminate scrolling
  • Design pop-ups and alerts near the visual focus
  • For mobile, avoid both horizontal and vertical scrolling (e.g., carousels)

Changing Abilities

Some accessibility features are needed one day and not another day.

  • Provide captions and transcripts for all videos
  • Suggest a translation app or provide one
  • Enable zoom text to 200%

Multiple Disabilities

Disability comes in combinations such as hearing loss and low vision.

  • Design for screen reader users
  • Enable zoom text to 200%
  • Support users wishing to customize fonts, colors and spacing

READ MORE: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) in Healthcare

Healthcare Leaders Turn to Us

Perficient is dedicated to enabling healthcare and life sciences organizations to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within their companies. Our healthcare practice is comprised of experts who understand the unique challenges facing the industry. The 10 largest health systems and 10 largest health insurers in the U.S. have counted on us to support their end-to-end digital success. Modern Healthcare has also recognized us as the fifth-largest healthcare IT consulting firm.

We bring pragmatic, strategically grounded know-how to our clients’ initiatives. And our work gets attention – not only by industry groups that recognize and award our work but also by top technology partners that know our teams will reliably deliver complex, game-changing implementations. Most importantly, our clients demonstrate their trust in us by partnering with us again and again. We are incredibly proud of our 90% repeat business rate because it represents the trust and collaborative culture that we work so hard to build every day within our teams and with every client.

With more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry, Perficient is a trusted, end-to-end, global digital consultancy.

So, What Comes Next?

For those businesses looking to obtain more insights on website accessibility, Perficient has created a set of information to help. You can download our guide Digitally Accessible Experiences: Why it Matters and How to Create Them and request more information about our Accessibility IQSM, a jumpstart website evaluation. Also, there’s more to read on digital accessibility in our UX for Accessible Design series.

Contact us to discuss your organizations specific needs

About the Author

I’m a Senior Manager Digital Accessibility with the Detroit business unit.

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Lisa McMichael

Lisa McMichael is a Senior Manager Digital Accessibility, CPACC with the Detroit Business Unit.

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