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13 min read

Healthcare Web Accessibility: More Than a Legal Obligation

Healthcare website accessibility is more important now than ever before. Not only is it a legal requirement, but it's also essential for providing high-quality care to all patients, regardless of their abilities.
healthcare web accessibility. Elderly man squinting at phone
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Picture this: you’re feeling under the weather, so you head to your computer to search for a local healthcare provider. You find a website that seems promising, but when you try to navigate it, you’re met with a barrage of inaccessible design features that make it nearly impossible to find the information you need. Frustrating, right? Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common for people with disabilities trying to access healthcare services online.

That’s where Healthcare Web Accessibility comes in. It’s more than just a legal requirement, it’s a crucial aspect of providing high-quality care to all patients. By making healthcare websites accessible, we can ensure that everyone, regardless of ability, can easily find the information they need, book appointments, and access vital resources.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But isn’t website accessibility just for people with disabilities?” Actually, no! When we design for digital accessibility, we create a more user-friendly website for everyone. Think about it: clear navigation, easy-to-read text, and well-designed forms benefit all users, not just those with disabilities.

So, whether you’re a healthcare provider, a web designer, or just someone who cares about creating a more inclusive world, Healthcare Web Accessibility is something you should be thinking about.

The Current State of Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Despite the increasing importance of healthcare websites in our daily lives, digital accessibility for people with disabilities remains a challenge. According to the World Health Organization, over 16% of the world’s population lives with a disability. Shockingly, according to WebAIM, WCAG 2 failures were detected on 96.8% of home pages in 2022. This means that millions of people are unable to access essential healthcare information and services online, which can have serious implications for their health and well-being.

2022 WCAG 2 statistics. 96.8% of homepages had accessibility issues

The Impact of Inaccessible Healthcare Websites on People with Disabilities

Inaccessible healthcare websites create a barrier to care for people with disabilities, who may struggle to find the information they need, book appointments, and access vital resources. As a result, people with disabilities are often forced to rely on phone calls or in-person visits to access healthcare services, which can be time-consuming and challenging, particularly for those with mobility impairments or other disabilities. Inaccessible websites also impact people with disabilities financially, as they may have to pay more for transportation or miss out on online discounts that are only available to those who can access healthcare services online.

The Importance of Web Accessibility for Healthcare Websites

In light of these statistics, it’s clear that digital accessibility is not just a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity. Creating accessible healthcare websites can help ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to vital healthcare information and services, and can help improve health outcomes for all patients. In fact, studies have shown that accessible websites can also improve search engine optimization (SEO), increase website traffic, and boost user engagement, making them a win-win for both patients and healthcare providers.

To put it simply, if your healthcare website isn’t accessible, you’re missing out on a significant portion of your potential patient base. Inaccessible websites aren’t just inconvenient for people with disabilities, they’re discriminatory. By designing accessible websites, we can help create a more equitable world where everyone has equal access to healthcare information and services. So, let’s do our part and make healthcare web accessibility a priority.

Check out GoDaddy’s comprehensive resource on digital accessibility guidelines below, which includes tips and best practices for designing and developing accessible websites.

What Are the WCAGs?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAGs) are a set of technical standards for web accessibility created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The WCAGs are designed to help website owners and developers create websites that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. The guidelines cover a range of topics, from color contrast and font size to keyboard accessibility and alternative text for images.

The Benefits of Following the WCAGs

Following the WCAGs can help ensure that your healthcare website is accessible to all users, regardless of ability. By creating an accessible website, you can improve the user experience for everyone and demonstrate your commitment to providing high-quality care to all patients. Following the WCAGs can also help you avoid legal issues and improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), which can lead to increased traffic and improved engagement with your patients.

How to Implement the WCAGs on Your Healthcare Website

The WCAGs can seem overwhelming at first, but there are a number of resources available to help you implement them on your healthcare website. The first step is to familiarize yourself with the WCAGs and determine which level of compliance you want to aim for (A, AA, or AAA). From there, you can work with a web developer or use online tools to test your website for accessibility and identify areas that need improvement.

3 Key Tips for Healthcare Web Accessibility

Provide Alternative Text for Images

Images are an important part of any healthcare website, but they can be a challenge for users with visual impairments. To ensure that all users can access the information conveyed by images on your website, provide alternative text (alt text) that describes the image.

Adding Image Alt Text on WordPress

  1. Select the Image: First, select the image you want to add alt text to. This can be done by clicking on the image in the WordPress editor or by selecting it from the media library.
  2. Edit the Image: Next, click on the “Edit” button in the toolbar above the image.
  3. Add Alt Text: In the image editor, you’ll see a field labeled “Alternative Text”. This is where you can add a description of the image that will be read by screen readers or displayed if the image can’t be loaded.
  4. Be Descriptive: Make sure to add a descriptive alt text that accurately describes the image. For example, “A smiling doctor wearing a white coat” is more helpful than simply “doctor”.
  5. Save Your Changes: Once you’ve added your alt text, click “Update” to save your changes.

Ensure Color Contrast Meets Accessibility Standards

Color contrast is important for users with visual impairments, as it can help them distinguish between different elements on your website. Make sure the color contrast on your website meets accessibility standards by using online tools to test your website.

Want to make sure your healthcare website is accessible to all? Check out the WebAIM Contrast Checker.

WEBAIM Contrast Checker Example :  Healthcare Web Accessibility

Make Your Website Keyboard Accessible

While many of us take for granted our ability to use a mouse, not all users have that luxury. Some users may have physical disabilities that prevent them from using a mouse, while others may rely on assistive technology like screen readers that require keyboard navigation.

That’s where keyboard accessibility comes in. By making your healthcare website fully navigable using a keyboard, you ensure that all users can access all of your content and features, regardless of their physical abilities or assistive technology.

So, how do you make your website keyboard accessible? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Use keyboard-friendly navigation: Make sure your website’s navigation is easy to navigate using just the keyboard. This includes making sure users can easily navigate between links and other interactive elements.
  2. Add keyboard shortcuts: Consider adding keyboard shortcuts for frequently used actions on your website. This can help speed up the user’s navigation and improve their experience.
  3. Ensure focus is visible: Make sure that the element that currently has keyboard focus is clearly visible, so users can easily keep track of where they are on the page.

Lawsuits and Legal Settlements: The Risks of Inaccessible Healthcare Websites

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. This includes discrimination in places of public accommodation, which the Department of Justice (DOJ) has interpreted to include websites. The DOJ has stated that businesses that offer goods or services to the public must make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.

In the United States, there have been a number of high-profile lawsuits related to digital accessibility. Many of these lawsuits have been brought against businesses that offer goods or services to the public, and have centered on the issue of whether their websites are accessible to people with disabilities. In some cases, these lawsuits have resulted in significant settlements or judgments against the defendants.

At Webserv, we have extensive experience helping addiction treatment and behavioral health providers achieve web accessibility compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Our team of expert designers and developers understand the unique needs of the healthcare industry and can work closely with you to identify and address any accessibility issues on your website.

Take Your Web Accessibility to the Next Level

At Webserv, we believe that every patient deserves access to your healthcare company’s website, regardless of their abilities. That’s why we are committed to creating custom web solutions that are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 

Our team of expert designers and developers has years of experience in the healthcare industry, and we understand the unique needs of healthcare providers and their patients. From accessible design and development to ongoing support and maintenance, we are with you every step of the way to ensure that your website is not only beautiful and user-friendly but also fully accessible to all of your patients. Book an Intro Meeting to learn more about web solutions that are compliant, accessible, and effective.

[Updated July 3rd, 2023]

Frequently Asked Questions

What is digital accessibility and why is it important?

Digital accessibility refers to the ability of people with disabilities to access and use healthcare-related websites and digital content. This includes ensuring that websites are designed and developed in a way that enables people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities to navigate, understand, and interact with the content. Accessibility is important because it ensures that everyone, regardless of ability, has equal access to critical healthcare information and services.

What are some common accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face on healthcare websites?

Some common accessibility barriers include images without proper alternative text, videos without captions or transcripts, navigation menus that are not keyboard accessible, and lack of clear language and structure. Forms that are not properly labeled or do not work with screen readers can also be a barrier for people with disabilities.

How can healthcare websites ensure accessibility for people with disabilities?

To ensure accessibility, healthcare websites should follow web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) which provide a set of best practices for making digital content accessible to people with disabilities. This includes ensuring that text is easy to read and understand, providing alternative text for images and other non-text content, and making sure all functionality is available through a keyboard. Websites can also conduct accessibility testing with users who have disabilities to identify and address any remaining barriers.

What are the consequences of not making healthcare websites accessible?

Not making healthcare websites accessible can result in exclusion and discrimination against people with disabilities. This can lead to negative health outcomes for individuals who cannot access healthcare information and services online. In addition, noncompliance with accessibility regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, can result in legal consequences and financial penalties for healthcare organizations.

What are some benefits of accessible healthcare websites?

Accessible healthcare websites benefit everyone, not just people with disabilities. They improve the user experience for all users by making it easier to find and understand information. Additionally, accessible websites can increase engagement and trust with patients, which can lead to better health outcomes. By investing in accessibility, healthcare organizations demonstrate their commitment to providing inclusive and equitable healthcare services for all.

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