Accessibility and Inclusivity in Healthcare App Design: Towards Breaking Care Barriers

Accessibility and inclusivity in healthcare app design refer to developing a platform for a wide range of people irrespective of their socioeconomic and health backgrounds. The idea is to create a healthcare app design that opens up an equal platform for every kind of people and makes healthcare available for them.

Currently, 23% of the analyzed apps failed to provide accessibility metadata, known as a “content description,” for more than 90% of their image-based buttons. The functionality of those buttons will therefore be inaccessible when using a screen reader. To avoid such conditions, healthcare app developers need to build an accessible and inclusive application. Dive into this article to learn how to create an accessible and inclusive healthcare app design for your audience.

Significance of an Accessible and Inclusive Healthcare App

Build an accessible and inclusive healthcare app to harness its full potential and here’s why:

  1. Better User Experience: With accessibility in mind, the UX/UI design is more user-friendly, there’s room for intuitive interactions and scope for clear navigation. All of these aspects enhance user experience and accessible features benefit people with disabilities.
  2. Overcoming Socioeconomic Issues: The healthcare app is one of the cost-effective ways to seek care and with an inclusive design socioeconomic barriers can be eliminated. For instance, promoting remote care via healthcare apps to those who cannot afford to travel to a hospital or be admitted to one.
  3. Offering Health Education and Training: Healthcare app interface can promote education and training for healthcare providers and patients. Ease-to-use interfaces are a powerhouse for medical resources and the latest news. This creates an environment of continuous learning for the users.
  4. Source for Clinical Research and Trials: Interfaces are designed to capture patient data from a diverse population. This data becomes a source for clinical trials and research at a large scale. It is also a source to screen people with life-threatening and chronic diseases.
  5. Empowering Healthcare Providers: Better accessibility and inclusivity in healthcare apps means a user-friendly interface that’s easy to navigate. Healthcare providers can make use of such interfaces to seamlessly access health data, offer online consultations, manage appointments and treatment, and boost the overall efficiency of patient care.
  6. Paving the Way to Technological Innovations: Fostering accessibility and inclusivity in healthcare applications opens up lucrative opportunities for technological innovations. For instance, the integration of wearables, chatbots, or NLP in healthcare apps promotes the inclusion of disabled people and expands geographical boundaries for people seeking medical care.
  7. Ethical Responsibility: Building an inclusive healthcare app design signifies that it is a way to offer equal opportunities to every part of society. Providing primary medical care to people irrespective of their background is a responsibility that must be carried out by healthcare organizations.

Accessibility Standards at a Glance

Healthcare app developers may refer to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) to ensure that the apps meet accessibility standards. These standards are internationally adopted and were set out by the World Wide Web Consortium. The latest guidelines on WCAG were released in 2023 and the draft can be checked here.

WCAG guidelines fall under four main categories, namely:

  1. Perceivable: This simply means that everyone should be able to access the services of an app regardless of ability. Perceivable guidelines say to include text alternatives to video and images and offer transcripts or captions for video and audio content.
  2. Operable: This means that everyone should be able to use the application. It can be done by encompassing voice commands, keyboard navigation, or assuring that the application is free from bright light that may lead to reactions such as seizures.
  3. Understandable: Healthcare apps must include a variety of functionalities so people from different abilities can easily grasp the content and services. For example, try to include videos, diagrams, buttons, or a tutorial. Ensure that there’s consistency in navigation and interactions should align with user expectations.
  4. Robust: Know that every healthcare app should be updated and optimized as per the latest tech trends for current and future usage.

Apart from this, the WCAG highlights three levels of accessibility: A, AA, and AAA standard, with A being the minimum one. Furthermore, the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) offers equal opportunities for people with disabilities and safeguards them from discrimination. The A and AA levels are the de facto standards for the US Department of Justice, and organizations that don’t comply with these standards are likely to face lawsuits.

Moving on, both Apple and Google have guidelines for accessible apps, but they pretty much resonate with the WCAG standards, for instance, the app must be robust, clear, and specific.

Strategies to Promote Accessibility and Inclusivity in a Healthcare App Design

1. Adapt Universal Design Principles

To promote accessibility and inclusivity in healthcare app design consider inculcating the following universal design principles:

  1. Flexibility and Scalability: A flexible and scalable app design supports customization of contrast or text size for the visually impaired or those with cognitive dysfunction.
  2. Simple User Interface: Go for well-organized layouts, patterns, and universally acclaimed symbols. Follow a logical navigational pathway so that users don’t get lost while using the healthcare app.
  3. Multisensory Interactions: To accommodate a wider audience consider inculcating features that support users with hearing impairment, color blindness, or physical deformity. Some of the features can include audio and video content with captions, or voice-assisted technology.
  4. Contextual Designs: Think from the perspective of the user – will they be anxious or stressed while using the app? Or will they just rush through it? This is where layouts and speed of the app matter. Designing an app with certain context in mind leads to an empathetic and compassionate user experience.

2. Integrate AAC Devices

AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices help users with speech deficiencies navigate content online. AAC devices facilitate tasks such as appointment booking, medication refills, medical education, finding a physician, researching medical services, and more.

AAC devices allow users to express themselves in four different ways:

  1. Talk: Communication and language app allows users to communicate by tapping cards that instantly speak aloud. Users can create personalized cards to express their thoughts, needs, and feelings.
  2. Type: Text-to-speech feature allows you to type messages and have them spoken aloud.
  3. Draw: Offers a whiteboard for users to communicate visually. A handy tool for kids with mental disabilities such as autism or Down Syndrome.
  4. Media: Allows users to access videos, photos, drawings, and audio in one place. Users can quickly swipe pictures and use them to convey their messages.

3. Adhere to Designing Best Practices

For accessibility and inclusivity in healthcare app design, follow through with these designing best practices:

  1. Optimize for High Color Contrast: For people who can’t see color, it’s important to use color and contrast effectively. During the design stage, make sure that the contrast between the text and its background is high enough that it’s easy to read.
  2. Encompass Alternative Text for Images: By offering alternative text for images, healthcare apps not only ameliorate accessibility but also augment user satisfaction and engagement. It ensures that users receive a comprehensive understanding of the image, regardless of their abilities.
  3. Stick to Clear Content Structure: Well-structured Text will be easier for all users to read and comprehend. For screen readers or those with visual impairments, well-structured headings (with appropriate H1 or H2 tags) will enhance readability.
  4. Strict User Testing to Assure that the Design is Accessible: Testing with a diverse group of users is always a good idea. Utility testing is based on the principles of observation and inquiry. This is the best way to understand how users with disabilities interact with digital products. For example, how a blind person uses a touch screen. Through usability testing, designers can empathize with users and identify their pain points. This helps to identify opportunities to enhance accessibility and improve user experience.

Wrapping Up

Accessibility and inclusivity is an important aspect of a healthcare app because it is a way to reach out to a wider audience that needs medical help. The healthcare app interface can help to provide equal care opportunities to the disabled and those facing socioeconomic issues. Opening remote care opportunities to curb healthcare expenses and accommodating disabled patients are two of the key benefits offered by an accessible and inclusive healthcare app.

If you’re looking to modify your healthcare application and make it more inclusive and accessible, then reach out to Arkenea, a healthcare software development company that offers customized mobile health applications. With over 13 years of experience in the field, we at Arkenea are acquainted with the rules and policies of the healthcare sector and, hence can offer a world-class product that matches not only industry standards but yours too. Get in touch with us to know more.