Modern websites are highly interactive, and when it comes to building a webpage for your medical practice, these tools offer you the opportunity to streamline operations, adding forms, communications tools, and more. Unfortunately, many medical practices overlook accessibility when adding these functions, despite legal requirements and professional contact with disabled individuals. This results in poor user adaptability and the need to reverse engineer multiple functions for disabled users.
Rather than modifying your practice’s website retroactively to meet the needs of disabled users, it’s time to start putting disability first. You’re legally required to make your website accessible under the Americans With Disabilities Act, anyway – why alienate clients and run the risk of fines and lawsuits when you could build a better website?
Accessibility means many things, as obviously different disabilities involve different access needs, but there are several core guidelines that can help you build a broadly inclusive website. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) offers 12 guidelines for accessibility. These include perceivable accessibility-focused on text, visuals, and sound and operable accessibility that focuses on navigation, among others. The goal is to construct a robust design framework that is compatible with all major tools and can easily be adapted to future innovations.
If you’re working with a specialized healthcare web design company, they should include a full quality check of the site as part of the services. It’s not enough to just check the links and make sure that onsite forms work as expected. Rather, your designer should also check the navigation, forms, and other features while using alternative tools such as dictation software and keyboard-based navigation. There are also automated accessibility scanning tools you can use to ensure your website features conform to these standards without investing in screen readers, dictation software, and other accessibility tools.
It’s not just forms and links that need to be ADA compliant. Any services you offer, such as telehealth conferencing need to be accessible as well. With two-way telehealth software a serious player in the future of healthcare, considering how the program will work for users with different disabilities is an important step. Though telehealth has the potential to reduce service costs and reach patients who otherwise have limited physical access to services, doctors should carefully assess how it fits into their website’s infrastructure, starting with the sign-in process and going from there.
Similar rules apply to built-in patient portals, educational videos, and other added-value tools that doctors frequently include with their websites. Is that infographic screen reader accessible? Probably not – so you’ll need to add descriptive captions. Is your patient portal keyboard navigation and screen reader friendly? It’s likely that the designers didn’t factor that in and now you’ll need to backtrack to meet patient needs.
Your disabled patients deserve full access to everything your website has to offer, but if you’ve never used accessibility tools, it’s easy to overlook functional factors. Take the time to consult with a disability-savvy designer – ideally one who is themselves disabled, and talk to your patients about what makes a website easy to use based on their individual needs.
The more you know about access barriers, the more comprehensive your site design will be.