Providing potential patients with useful, relevant information can be a great way to turn leads into appointments. Physician marketers often pay close attention to the content and design of a doctor’s website, but often overlook an important population of patients: people with disabilities.
People with disabilities consume information on the Internet in many different ways, depending on their disability. Disabilities include obvious conditions that would impair a person’s ability to see information on a website, such as blindness; but other common conditions, such as epilepsy, color blindness, and hearing loss, can impair a patient’s ability to access information on a physician’s website.
Following a few simple guidelines when developing a physician’s website can give that doctor an edge over competitor’s that do not consider the needs of patients with disabilities.
State and local governments are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to comply with standards for making websites accessible to people with disabilities. Although private physicians are not required to comply with ADA guidelines, employing some of the best practices that government entities use to make their websites compliant can improve accessibility for patients with disabilities.
Web Design Techniques
While there are many ways to improve the accessibility of a website for people with limited vision, here are a few general guidelines for Web designers to follow:
- Use text formats
People with visual disabilities use tools, such as screen readers, to read text aloud or to translate text into Braille. If your website contains PDFs, make sure that they are in a text format and not just an image. Using optical character recognition (OCR) software can turn a graphic PDF into a text document that is readable with a screen reader.
- Add text to graphics
Photographs, logos, and other visual graphics are inaccessible to users with visual impairments. Add alternate text to these images. For example, add the alternate text of “Photo of Dr. Thomas Smith” to a physician picture.
- Add captions to videos
Videos are becoming more common on physician websites. Adding captions to videos is an easy way to make the audio track accessible to a user who cannot hear.
Things to Avoid
Many Web designers are very concerned about the aesthetic of a website, but do not consider how the material will be consumed by people with disabilities. Marketers can work with website designers to ensure that they avoid certain design issues that can be problematic for users with disabilities. Consider avoiding the following:
- Fixed font sizes and colors that cannot be changed by the viewer
- Blinking or flashing text or graphics
- Indicating tone of text with color
Following these simple guidelines can give physicians an edge over competitors because website designers often overlook these design rules. Physician marketers should work with website designers to ensure their client's website is accessible to the population that may be the most in need of a physician's care.