Healthcare Website Accessibility: A Comprehensive Guide

Key Takeaways:

  1. An accessible and inclusive healthcare website allows users from every background to access the same kind of information.
  2. WCAG, ADA, and Section 508 are the key accessibility standards that every healthcare website developer must implement.
  3. The incorporation of closed captions, screen readers, AAD devices, use of Alt tags, and a navigation keyboard can improve healthcare website accessibility.

Not all websites are user-friendly. Would you stay on a site with only black-and-white color combinations, or lean towards a site with welcoming colors? The answer is obvious. Designing a user-friendly website that supports accessibility and inclusivity is one of the steps to increase traffic. Who wouldn’t want to use a healthcare website that pops with beautiful color combinations, readable font sizes, and voice assistant technology?

The benefit of having an accessible healthcare website is that it ranks higher on SERPS and is compliant. Did you know that only 4.9 percent of the hospitals on the honor roll or the top hospital lists were WCAG 2.1 compliant? About 80 percent of the hospitals were semi-compliant, and 16.7 percent were non-compliant. Healthcare website accessibility tools and best practices help hospitals to up their accessibility game and design a compliant site for users.

This article points out the importance of healthcare website accessibility and varied accessibility rules. It also highlights best practices for accessibility, along with tips on how to make an accessible healthcare website. Let’s dive in!

Importance of Designing an Accessible Healthcare Website

Healthcare website accessibility is gaining importance in the healthcare industry. Medical websites must be accessible to everyone. This also includes those with some form of physical disability.

An accessible and inclusive healthcare website allows users from every background to access the same kind of information. This could be healthcare educational resources, appointment bookings, online consultations, referrals, etc. By making an accessible website, hospitals ensure that every patient has equal access to online content and medical care.

Furthermore, an increase in the number of people with disabilities is also driving the need for an accessible healthcare site. According to the CDC, around 27 percent of adults in the USA have some type of disability. Amongst various kinds of disabilities, difficulty in mobility takes the first spot. With billions of people affected by disability, it is necessary to build healthcare websites that are inclusive and accessible to all.

Apart from this, an accessible healthcare site allows hospitals and clinics to reach a wider patient base. It helps to attract patients who are looking for something that doesn’t suppress them due to their disability. Tapping into a volatile patient base can help up the revenue of the hospitals, and augment patient experience and satisfaction. A hospital with an impeccable accessible design is more likely to set itself apart from the crowd, make a name, and improve its rankings on SERPS.

Additionally, an accessible website shows a positive image of the people, telling them that the care facility is on par with compliance laws and regulations. This includes the ADA (Americans with Disability Act), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Healthcare Website Accessibility: Key Standards

Here are three accessibility standards that every healthcare website developer must incorporate to adhere to compliance laws and regulations.

1. ADA

The ADA rules apply to healthcare organizations with 25 or more employees, and those with 15 or more staff should adhere to Section 508, which we will talk about later in this section.

Now, the Americans with Disability Act applies to the state and local governments (Title II) and businesses that are open to the public (Title III). Let’s see what these two cover:

  1. Title II: So, several local and state government services, activities, and programs are being offered on the website. This may include population health stats or state benefit programs. An accessible site ensures that people with disabilities can leverage government sites to fulfill their needs.
  2. Title III: Clinics, hospitals, old age homes, and care facilities fall under businesses that are open to the public. The ADA mandates that all businesses open to the public must offer full and equal access to their services, goods, privileges, and facilities to people with disabilities.

Note: The ADA doesn’t offer proper guidelines, so healthcare facilities usually turn to WCAG regulations.

2. Section 508

Section 508 applies to federal agencies like the FDA and federal contractors. They are required to make public documents available online, and offer IT, electronic, and web-based training. Compliance with section 508 ensures that the web content is accessible to those suffering from disabilities.

Section 508 states that, “Incorporate by reference the WCAG 2.0 Level AA Success Criteria, and apply the WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria and conformance requirements to both web and non-web electronic content.” This means that by adhering to WCAG AA or AAA standards, the healthcare website will automatically comply with Section 508 rules.


Web Content Accessibility Guidelines act as a reference for accessibility for healthcare website developers. WCAG encompasses four principles of accessibility on how website content should be and these are as follows:

  1. Perceivable: The website information should be easily perceived by people with disabilities. This includes providing captions and text alternatives for images or graphics.
  2. Operable: This indicates that the navigation and the interface facets must be functional. In other words, the site should be able to command features that the users want.
  3. Understandable: The content should be such that the users can understand it easily. The information should be provided in a layman’s language.
  4. Robust: This implies that the content must be compatible with a wide range of users. The user agents include assistive technologies, browsers, and platforms used to view website information.

Apart from this, there are WCAG Success Criteria which is divided into three levels: A, AA, and AAA. Here’s what the three levels mean:

  1. A (Minimal Compliance): Considering this level can be a good start to ensure healthcare website accessibility. It mostly encompasses guidelines such as video captions, keyboard navigation, and no keyboard traps. Additionally, non-text content alternatives are also a part of it. This level fails to convey meaning via size, shape, and color alone.
  2. AA (Acceptable Compliance): This assures a usable experience for everyone and meets regulatory standards such as Section 508. The AA level covers color contrast, Alt text, and consistent use of navigational elements. It also ensures that the headings are in a logical order and that form fields have precise labels. Plus, status updates are conveyed through a screen reader.
  3. AAA (Optimal Compliance): To achieve AAA compliance level, healthcare website designers need to ensure that the color contrast is around 7:1 and sign language interpretation aspect is available for audio and video content. Additionally, context-sensitive text must be available.

Adhering to standards such as WCAG, Section 508, and ADA ensures that the website is accessible to all. There’s no discrimination of any kind. There’s inclusivity for people from all backgrounds.

Healthcare Website Accessibility Best Practices

To create an accessible website, healthcare website designers can consider certain best practices which are mentioned below:

1. Screen Readers

Screen readers aid visually impaired people in using computers efficiently. When a visually challenged person’s screen reader is compatible with a computer, then it converts content into audio format.

Popular screen readers include Windows Narrator, NVDA, Jaws Screen Reader, etc. Furthermore, screen reader requirements include keyboard navigation optimization and screen reader optimization.

2. Text Size

According to the 2022 National Health Interview Survey, approximately 50.18 million American adults between the age group 18 and older reported experiencing some degree of vision loss. So, these adults rely on screen magnifiers to read the text. Hence, designers can consider implementing an optimal text size. So that people with impaired eyesight can access content via a device that converts text to audio.

3. Closed Captions

According to research published by NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders), around one in eight people in the USA between the ages 12 and above face hearing loss in both ears, as per the standard hearing exam.

To ensure healthcare website accessibility for the deaf, designers can include closed captions. This feature is used for video content, where the captions are placed at the bottom.

4. Color Contrast

High color contrast differentiates text from its background. This ensures sufficient contrast for readability, especially for users with color blindness or low vision. Thus, making healthcare websites accessible for them. Healthcare designers can test color accessibility by testing various color palettes, and choose the ones that pass the test.

5. Use of Image Alt Tags

So, Alt text is the healthcare website’s HTML tag added to an image. It describes the content of the image for those who cannot see the images. Alt tags can explain the significance of an image in under 250 characters. Phrases such as ‘image of‘, ‘picture of‘, or ‘graphic of’ is not included here.

6. Form Accessibility

Forms are a way to promote user interaction with healthcare websites and applications. For instance, there are forms for registration, login, payment options, etc. Users prefer user-friendly, simple, and short forms.

To make an accessible form that is simple and short, designers can think about incorporating radio buttons and checkboxes. Additionally, improving the layout structure and enabling voice commands to activate controls can make a form accessible and inclusive.

7. Keyboard Navigation

Some people face difficulty in grasping or lifting things. This condition is likely to impact the use of the keyboard and mouse too. So, healthcare website designers can consider making a website that is keyboard-compatible. For instance, users should be able to move between buttons, links, forms, and other control options via the TAB key and keystrokes. The healthcare website must not require mouse control, for example, pop-up calendars and filling dates manually.

8. Adhering to Accessibility Standards

We’ve already talked about accessibility standards in detail in the article. A healthcare website design is considered unfit if it doesn’t adhere to accessibility standards such as WCAG, ADA, and Section 503.

Apart from this, another standard that plays a critical role in ensuring the privacy and security of the site is HIPAA. So, designers looking to construct an accessible and inclusive UX design must adhere to these standards.

9. Integration of AAC Devices

AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices are a great help for those who find it difficult to communicate through oral language. AAC devices act like tools to either replace or supplement user’s oral communication.

These devices can help users learn literacy skills. So, regardless of the user’s diagnosis or the severity of their learning abilities, they can gain from comprehensive literacy instruction. Designers can consider integrating AAC devices such as gestures, pictures, GoTalk, etc., to enhance the accessibility of their healthcare website.

10. Prioritizing People with Disabilities Before and During Design

During the planning and research stage of the website development process, designers can create how they can make the website more accessible. Having a proper roadmap at the initial stages can save tons of money and time for the healthcare website development company.

Designers can research barriers and challenges that may arise while developing an accessible site. Making a checklist of features, components, and functions at the beginning can help to plan a solid roadmap.

How to Design an Accessible Healthcare Website?

Here’s how you can design an accessible healthcare website:

  1. Understanding User Needs: Identify the diverse needs of users, including those with disabilities. Conduct usability tests, and surveys, and engage with advocacy groups to gather insights.
  2. Compliance with Accessibility Standards: Adhere to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by W3C. Ensure compliance with WCAG standards for permeability, operability, understandability, and robustness.
  3. Intuitive Interface Design: Simplify navigation and organize content logically. Use clear headings, descriptive links, and a consistent layout. Incorporate features like autocomplete, predictive text input, and error prevention mechanisms.
  4. Adaptable Content Provision: Provide alternative text for images. Ensure keyboard navigation and compatibility with assistive technologies. Offer multiple modalities for consuming content, such as text transcripts for audiovisual materials.
  5. Inclusive Communication: Communicate information in clear and plain language. Support multilingual content to cater to diverse linguistic backgrounds. Provide accessible forms and ensure compatibility with screen readers.
  6. Regular Evaluation and Maintenance: Conduct periodic audits and usability testing to assess accessibility. Solicit user feedback and incorporate suggestions for improvement. Stay updated with technological advancements and evolving accessibility guidelines.
  7. Training and Awareness: Train developers, content creators, and other stakeholders on accessibility principles and best practices. Foster awareness about the importance of accessibility in healthcare website development.
  8. Continuous Improvement: Implement feedback mechanisms to gather ongoing insights from users. Continuously update and improve the website’s accessibility features based on user feedback and emerging technologies.

By following these steps, healthcare organizations can develop websites that are inclusive, user-friendly, and accessible to all individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

If you’re looking to develop an accessible and inclusive healthcare website for your organization then we at Arkenea have got you covered. We are a healthcare software development company. We specialize in offering custom healthcare website development for hospitals and clinics, along with API development. To know our other offerings, visit our website, or just hop on a consultation call with us.