The purpose of this article is to introduce the future HealthTech product developers to the concept of digital accessibility and its relevance in wider use and provide examples of products with excellent digital accessibility.
What is Digital Accessibility and Why Does It Matter for HealthTech?
The first thing one needs to understand here is that the HealthTech products are mostly aimed at people having various ailments and disabilities that prevent them from having a normal life. Whether it’s cancer patients, war veterans with hearing or sight impairment, patients with mental disorders, or merely elderly people with mobility issues, they all benefit from the outcome of healthcare software development machine.
So, regardless of whether it’s scheduling their next appointment, getting hold of the medication they need, or something “minor” such as menstrual cycle tracking, Healthtech products come in rather handy.
The obvious conclusion here is that the product you offer must be well-adapted to the needs of all users. This is precisely what digital accessibility is when defined in laymen terms. Still, a more precise definition would go like this.
Digital accessibility is the process in which digital products related to healthcare are made easily accessible by people with different kinds of disabilities.
The idea behind is a different form of social inclusion and equality that prevent the marginalization of people with disabilities and gives them the possibility to exercise their rights.
Digital Accessibility Stats
For the sake of better understanding the importance of the digital accessibility of your HealthTech product, let’s just go briefly through some stats.
- According to WHO, over 2 billion people are living with a form of disability. This is 15% of the overall human population.
- There is a significant rise in the number of digital accessibility lawsuits across the USA; over 3,500 cases in the USA in 2020, according to UsableNet.
- According to the US Department of Commerce, companies that overlook digital accessibility of their website lose $6.9 billion on a yearly basis compared to the competitors that offer websites with adequate digital accessibility.
- A different WHO statistic data show that the number of people with moderate to severe vision impairment will triple by 2050, that is from 36 to 115 million
- The Census Bureau published concerning numbers of people in the USA living with different disabilities, most critical of which are people with cognitive (296,658,45), vision and hearing difficulties (316,450,569).
These pretty worrying stats are clear evidence that no matter what kind of HealthTech product you are offering, it has to be digitally accessible to all.
Otherwise, the product you make has no use, because no physically and mentally healthy individual will reach for it as much as people with impairments will.
How to Check/Test Your Product’s Accessibility?
No matter what line of products that you place on the market, there are certain steps that you need to follow. Of course, it all starts as an idea, followed by brainstorming, feasibility studies, and finally the actual design and production.
However, a step that you can’t allow yourself to omit is testing your product to confirm that it does what it is meant for. In the case of HealthTech products, the most important testing you need to focus on is testing the usability and digital accessibility.
For this purpose, you first have to introduce yourself with the success criteria so you know what you are looking for.
The Testing WCAG 2.0 Checklists
Before testing, these checklists will help you out with maintaining the testing course and focusing on the errors that need fixing.
Here are some of the checklists to introduce yourself to before starting the official testing.
- The A11Y Project’s Web Accessibility Checklist (accessibility guide for beginners)
- WebAIM WCAG 2.0 Checklist (HTML and PDF)
- McMaster University Web Page Checklist (WCAG 2.0 Level AA Interactive checklist)
- Paul J Adam’s WCAG 2.0 checklist (Interactive checklist that offers you to remove AAA checks)
- W3C WCAG 2.0 Checklist (HTML)
- Wuhcag Checklists by Level (HTML)
Digital Accessibility Testing Process
The practise shows that the best way to test these is to apply the 3-Tier approach that allows you to fully test the accessibility of your HealthTech product.
To support the claim, here are the three testing areas that this approach focuses on:
- Automated testing
- Manual testing
- User testing
Even though you can opt for conducting only one of these, the practice shows that the best approach is to combine all three so you have a clear picture of the functionality of your healthtech product.
This one is conducted through various tools that are often enough found as a free version that can test your overall website.
The basic operating principle includes scanning codes on your website pages one by one showing issues as it comes across these. Besides scanning multiple pages one by one (entering URL), you can opt for scanning the most critical ones, such as Homepage, Contact, and/or the page that is the point of your products.
Among the testing tools you can use, here are some of the widely used ones.
HTML_CodeSniffer – can be used in all major browsers and as it checks the site accessibility it sends detailed reports of errors that you need to review and fix manually before releasing the product to the market. Moreover, it directs you to the adequate sections of the 508 or WCAG specs and gives you hints on how to fix the issues.
Wave Toolbar Extension for Chrome – works similarly to the previous one, but adapted to Chrome exclusively. After checking for errors it also presents a detailed report with listed errors and details on how to fix them.
This one typically includes manual navigation through the website to see if all the pages are easily accessed. Even though it is time-consuming, it will help you discover if something isn’t right.
Here are some of the functions you can try manually to see if the product is working as it should.
- Zoom in/Zoom out the text. Repeat it a few times both using the keyboard shortcuts and the icon on the site. Observe what happens and whether there is any content loss.
- Shrink and expand the content on the page to see how the content fits smaller screens.
- Access the site through your mobile phone. In this way, the smaller screen will help you check whether any content gets lost.
- Try navigating merely using the keyboard. Check whether you can reach all the tabs and interactive objects.
This one is the last step for a reason.
Once you performed the previous two tiers and fixed any of the issues you might have come across, users are the ones to tell you whether your product is serving its purpose. With such testing, the most important thing is to have the right users test it.
The target group to test your product should be people with disabilities and/or the elderly. They will help you out by giving you directions and comments on how to make the product more functional, i.e. more accessible to them.
Three Examples of HealthTech Software Products with a Great Accessibility
Whenever we contemplate some undertaking, it is only natural to check out the potential competition and to see how others have done it.
Accordingly, here are three different role models for you to check out. These are all excellent healthcare-related products with software that yields great accessibility.
This is a great app that helps people find the best physician based on their overall health conditions. It includes a substantial database of various MDs with their qualifications, specialties, fees, hospitals they work for, hours.
It is true that it operates for the Hong Kong area specifically, but their digital accessibility is brought to a high level so they deserve to be checked out.
2. Walk With Path
Here we have a wearable tech solution that consists of a shoe insole (Path Feel) that helps people with mobility problems to keep their stability when walking.
The insole practically gathers foot vibrations and records data to be better analyzed by the doctors.
Moreover, the software allows the doctors to remotely monitor the patients.
This is the level of digital accessibility one needs to strive for.
3. The CareVoice
Again, originally developed in China, it is another healthtech product with great accessibility.
Besides allowing users to make doctor appointments it also enables them to keep track of their medical insurance and other medical issues.
It is easily navigated and transparent and it also includes commentary from other patients and is interactive in this way so people with disabilities can tell whether a certain physician is right for them.
In a world where technology has penetrated every figment of our lives, it is hard to imagine that a significant portion of the population is still marginalized.
Elder people and people with disabilities are struggling with their medical care routines so finally, the tech jumped in making an increasing number of websites and healthtech products more digitally accessible to these socially endangered groups.
Here you got the chance to get yourself acquainted with the concept of digital accessibility of your HealthTech product and how to test it before you put the product to function.
Finally, the list of examples is also included just to point you in the right direction.