This sponsored article was provided by Reason One and was written by Jen Tweedie and Nadia Rasul. Jen is a Content Strategist at Reason One. She is responsible for creative and strategic deliverables regarding inclusive content best practices, information architecture and user experience. Nadia is a Sr. Front End Developer and the Accessibility Lead at Reason One. She brings over 8 years of combined experience in front end development, user experience, and service design. As the Accessibility Lead, she helps set accessibility standards and best practices for the studio, consults with teams on a project level to deliver inclusive solutions, and advances the knowledge of the studio through ongoing research and training.
About 20% of the global population has challenges with basic tasks and interactions, meaning every website is guaranteed to have visitors with disabilities. And while it’s important that all sites incorporate inclusive practices, the stakes are higher for healthcare websites.
2 (More) Ethical Reasons Healthcare Websites Must Be Accessible
There are two major reasons that healthcare entities have an even bigger responsibility to be inclusive.
Privacy and security
If someone is unable to pay healthcare bills or access medical records, they will need to ask for help with inputting personal information. On top of the privacy issues this presents, these inaccessible practices reduce a person’s independence.
Life or death stakes
Researching symptoms, finding physicians, and scheduling appointments can all be a matter of life or death. The stakes are high in many aspects of the healthcare profession, and website accessibility is no different.
Healthcare Accessibility Best Practices for Information Gathering
On a healthcare website, information gathering can include:
- Researching health conditions
- Understanding a healthcare system’s specialties/capabilities
- Researching doctors and locations
To make these tasks easier to accomplish and more accessible to everyone, here are some critical things to keep in mind.
Site navigation and interaction design
Healthcare websites must support different browsing methods. This means providing multiple ways to access the same content, whether it’s through navigation, on-page links, calls to action (CTAs), or site search functions. Navigation menus should be clear and consistent with mutually exclusive categories to minimize confusion.
All websites have some form of interactive content: links and navigation, videos, forms, or accordions. Accessible interactive content enables users to navigate to the content they're looking for.
Start by designing with accessibility in mind:
- Ensure controls are large enough to activate (at least 44 x 44px)
- Meet color contrast requirements to improve usability
- Design distinctive keyboard focus states
- Avoid using color alone to communicate important information
Using color alone, without any text adds unnecessary barriers for many users. For example, if a green circle indicates that a particular user is online, add “Online” in text next to the circle to remove the guesswork.
Content Structure and Clarity
If a patient is on your website, they could be under stress. The last thing they want to see are large walls of text and complex language. Clear, concise content serves people better.
Add structure to your site's content and help users skim with descriptive headings and subheadings. Other methods for skimmable content include:
- Lists (See what we did there?)
- Shorter sentences
- Shorter paragraphs
- Descriptive link text (Replace “Learn More” with “Find a Location”)
A grade 6–8 reading level is ideal for all online content, especially for health communications. Use simpler terms, avoid figures of speech, and provide clear definitions of complex terms.
Accessible Multimedia: Videos and Images
When it comes to videos, it’s important for users to be able to access that information on their own terms. Always include captions and transcripts, and don’t forget that transcripts are indexable by search engines (win-win!).
Users also need to be able to control the content with a keyboard. Never use auto-play or place text over moving video content. These features can be disorienting and possibly triggering.
For images, keep the following best practices in mind:
- Include alt text that conveys both the image’s content and mood (e.g., “Doctor hands file to happy patient.”).
- Avoid low-contrast colors if when layering text over an image.
- Don’t use embedded text; it can’t be translated and can become illegible on mobile.
- Avoid large images and auto-scrolling carousels.