Thursday, Feb 16, 2023
If We Are Going to Change Healthcare, We Have to Make it Accessible for Everyone
Praful KaulChief Technology Officer, Transcarent
The rise of virtual care serves as an equalizer in access to health and care services. More than ever, a person’s zip code is becoming less of an indicator in whether or not high-quality care is available to them through these new means of accessing care, but the conversation on health equity and accessibility goes beyond availability. Instead, when developing virtual care solutions, we must also focus on usability for all people.
For new developments in healthcare to be truly accessible, applications and devices have to be usable by people with all abilities. The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) states that accessibility means, “Everyone can use the exact same technology as anyone else.” As digital health solutions disrupt the healthcare industry and bring new and better opportunities for people to manage their health, accessibility for those living with visual, auditory, or other physical disabilities is often treated as an afterthought.
In a 2023 report put out by the CDC, the department found that 25 percent of adults with disabilities do not have a usual healthcare provider and 20 percent have had to forgo care due to cost – a direct correlation to the social barriers people with disabilities face. As we work to create a world that is inclusive of people with disabilities, we must ensure products and applications are not only just simply made available but are equitable and inclusive by design.
Here are a few ways companies can look to develop web and mobile applications that are more inclusive of people with disabilities:
For people who have color blindness or limited visibility to color, high-contrast images and text against background color is key for readability. Additionally, color should not be the only indicator when differentiating multiple items. For example, a line graph showing two items in different colors may be also shown with a solid line and a dashed line.
Alt text for images is an especially important feature for people who are blind or have overall limited vision. These descriptors paint a picture for people who cannot interact with the image visually through detailed text that can be translated verbally or with braille on a screen reader.
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, closed captioning on videos is a core component of accessibility.
Some websites are only mouse-enabled which disenfranchises people who require keyboard navigation due to disabilities that may impact a person’s dexterity.
As we develop new health and care solutions, we have a responsibility to foster a culture of inclusive design and stay up to date as federal guidelines change. Hiring an accessibility auditor is one important step in taking accountability for any potential accessibility shortcomings. Prioritizing rapid change to meet federal standards is another vital step. While full compliance and reaching the highest standards takes time, prioritizing accessibility work in our companies right away will result in a better experience that is available and usable by more people – and that means better care and better health outcomes for all.
If we are going to truly change healthcare, we have to make it accessible for everyone.