Why Your Healthcare Website Needs to be Accessible

With approximately 61 million Americans living with a disability and attention spans getting shorter, it’s more crucial than ever for healthcare organizations to have an accessible ADA-compliant website. If your website is user-friendly and accessible, you’re more likely to engage potential patients, leading to increased conversions and ROI.

Unfortunately, many web designers and developers don’t consider website accessibility when creating or updating a site. This may result in lost business, as potential patients may not be able to find the information they need or navigate your site easily. In addition, when your site is hard to navigate, your potential patients may be more inclined to choose another provider with a more user-friendly site, thus causing your bounce rate to increase.

Legal Ramifications of an Inaccessible Website

Aside from losing potential patients, having an inaccessible website may have legal implications. Websites that are not accessible may violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, which includes websites.

However, there are currently no specific requirements for website accessibility under the ADA. This often confuses healthcare executives and providers, as they are unsure how to make their site accessible without violating the law. To help you navigate this, we’ve broken down the basic guidelines for accessible healthcare websites.

What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for making an accessible website, the World Wide Web Consortium, an international community that sets web standards, has created a set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to help. The World Wide Web Consortium outlines three levels of accessibility, with level A being the minimum requirements and level AAA being the highest.

Level A

This is the most basic level of accessibility and includes requirements such as providing captions for videos and transcripts for audio files. Furthermore, under this level of accessibility, users should be able to navigate your site without a mouse, and all links should be accessible.

Level AA

This level builds on level A and includes additional requirements, such as making sure your site has a consistent layout and navigation structure. You should also ensure that alt text is provided for each image on your site and that all form fields are appropriately labeled. Following these guidelines may help ensure your site is accessible to a broader range of potential patients.

Level AAA

For optimal accessibility, your site should meet level AAA requirements in addition to those outlined in levels A and AA. An AAA-accessible site typically accounts for a more extensive range of disabilities and a more specialized user base. For example, sign language interpretation and on-page customization options are usually included at this level. The goal of an AAA-accessible site is to provide content that is accessible without having to use external assistive technology.

As you make your site more accessible, you may want to start with level A and gradually work up to levels AA and AAA. As a healthcare organization, you should always strive to provide the best possible care for your patients. This means having a website that is as accessible and user-friendly as possible.

While accessible websites may require more time and effort to create, the benefits far outweigh the costs. An accessible website provides a better experience for your potential patients and helps ensure you are in compliance with the ADA.

4 Tips for Making Your Healthcare Website More Accessible

Making your website accessible to everyone may help your practice better serve your community and avoid legal issues. Moreover, by catering to a broader range of patients, you may increase your patient base and grow your practice. To begin, keep accessibility in mind for the following four areas of your website. 

1. Navigation

When designing your website, providing a clear and intuitive navigation structure is crucial. This means using easy-to-understand language and labeling each page clearly. Without a straightforward navigational structure, you will likely miss out on valuable leads. An accessible website that helps users find what they need quickly and efficiently is essential to providing a good user experience. This simple change can make a big difference for potential patients who visit your site and may give you a leg up on the competition.

2. Tagging and Metadata

Users with screen readers often rely on tags and metadata to navigate websites and access content. Screen readers are software programs that convert text into speech or Braille. By ensuring your website is tagged correctly, you may help screen readers identify the structure of your site and better understand your content. 

To build a better online experience for users, you may want to consider the following:

  • Incorporate metadata into your website design
  • Use header tags to mark headings and subheadings
  • Make sure hyperlinks are clear and descriptive
  • Include alt text for images
  • Ensure plugins do not interfere with accessibility

For the bulk of your website’s content, you’ll want to use proper tags, metadata, and HTML code. CSS should only be used for design purposes and not for the structure of your site. This is because external CSS may not be compatible with some screen readers making it difficult for users to access your content.

3. Mobile Experience

Cell phones have changed the way we live and work, and they’ve also had a significant impact on how we access the internet. More people are using their smartphones to browse the web than ever before. So, having a mobile-friendly and accessible website is essential to providing a good user experience. 

To maximize the mobile experience for your potential patients, you may want to consider the following:

  • Help users avoid unintentional clicks by making buttons and links large enough to tap and have ample space around them.
  • Provide users with content that responds to the user’s desired orientation (landscape or portrait).
  • Make sure your website loads quickly on all mobile devices.

When designing for mobile, unintended clicks and actions are among the biggest concerns. By setting trigger actions for mouse or finger release only, you may help users avoid accidentally clicking on the wrong thing.

4. Accessible Forms

Site elements like appointment request forms and contact forms are often essential for patient conversion. If these forms are not accessible, you may be losing out on valuable leads. To make your forms accessible, you may want to:

  • Include clear and concise labels for each field
  • Enable autocomplete for fields where it is appropriate
  • Include error messages that are clear and helpful
  • Make each field of the form accessible to screen readers by using HTML coding

Online forms should be able to be filled out using only a keyboard. This means each field should be able to receive focus without the use of a mouse. This is essential for users with motor and visual impairments.

Build an Accessible Healthcare Website with Levo

Having an accessible website is essential to providing a good user experience and may help you attract more patients. However, accessible websites may be difficult to design and maintain. At Levo Health, we specialize in building and developing accessible websites exclusively for the healthcare industry.

Our full-service healthcare marketing agency can help you create a website that meets your specific needs and is accessible to all users. Contact us today to learn more about how you can optimize your website to attract more patients to your practice.

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About LEVO Health Staff

LEVO Health explores the latest business trends through the lens of patients, practice managers, physicians, and sales and marketing professionals.

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