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Accessible Healthcare Websites

Currently, the AODA does not have a healthcare standard. A committee is making recommendations about what a healthcare standard should include. One issue that a healthcare standard should address is access to information. Healthcare providers should be required to make all information available to all patients. One way for providers to do so could be by posting information on accessible healthcare websites. 

Accessible Healthcare Websites

Under the AODA’s Information and Communications Standards, all public-sector organizations, and private sector organizations with fifty or more workers, must make their websites accessible by January 2021. In other words, public hospitals and other large healthcare organizations will soon be required to make themselves accessible online. However, when smaller organizations also offer online healthcare information, they can welcome more patients. 

Healthcare providers can start offering accessible information online by ensuring that their websites comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities.

Highlights of WCAG 2.0

WCAG 2.0 guidelines describe how people viewing websites should be able to:

  • Perceive and navigate web content, such as with:
    • Text, instead of images of text
    • Information that can be enlarged up to 200 per cent without losing site functionality
    • Good colour contrast between text and background
    • Buttons labeled with words, not just with pictures, shapes, or colours
    • Captions available for all audio
    • Audio descriptions and captions available for all videos
  • Operate websites, such as with:
    • Keyboard commands instead of mouse clicking
    • Options to extend time limits
    • No elements that might induce seizures, such as flashing lights
    • Titles and headings that help users know where they are
  • Understand website information and layout, such as with:
    • Simple, linear layouts that are the same for each page of a website
    • Clear language, instead of figures of speech
    • Clear instructions for completing tasks, such as purchasing items or filling in forms
    • Text descriptions of errors when inputting information
    • Sign language interpretation
    • Definitions of unusual words and abbreviations
  • Visit websites using a variety of assistive technology, such as:
    • Screen readers and Braille displays
    • Screen magnifiers
    • Speech recognition programs

The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance for website owners and developers on how to implement them.

All healthcare providers should work on making their websites comply with WCAG 2.0, level AA. In the meantime, however, providers can make their services accessible in other ways. For instance, healthcare workers can provide information to patients and visitors:

  • In person
  • By phone or teletypewriter (TTY)
  • By email

However, accessible healthcare websites allow more information to reach more patients. This method reduces the time that providers would otherwise spend giving similar information to each patient one at a time.