The Internet has democratized the healthcare industry, giving patients and their loved ones access to more health and medical information than ever before. In particular, parents rely heavily on the Internet to find information on their child’s health. One survey found that 98 percent of parents at a hospital had used the Internet to research children’s health topics, including 86 percent who had sought information on specific diseases and conditions. Parents reported that they used a variety of sources, from online search engines and Wikipedia to dedicated health portals such as AboutKidsHealth and WebMD.
Although the Internet has made more information available to more people, the access to this information is not yet equally distributed. Although people with disabilities often use more healthcare services than the general public, many health and medical websites are not fully accessible.
Symptoms such as fever, earaches, nasal congestion, coughing, and rashes are highly common among infants and young children, and can indicate diseases ranging from the mild to the severe. Online health portals must prioritize web accessibility in order for parents with disabilities to correctly diagnose these conditions, and to make better decisions about their child’s health in general.
Web Accessibility for Children’s Health Information
Not only does web accessibility keep parents with disabilities more informed, health information websites face legal action if their information is inaccessible. According to Title III of the ADA, “places of public accommodation” such as healthcare establishments must not discriminate on the basis of disability. This condition also applies to state and local governments, as defined in Title II of the ADA.
Disability-based discrimination is most obvious at physical locations such as a doctor’s office. However, a growing body of case law has created precedents for the argument that the ADA applies to an organization’s presence in cyberspace as well.
In 2017, plaintiffs filed over 800 federal lawsuits and over 100 state lawsuits alleging that the defendant’s website was insufficiently accessible to people with disabilities. What’s more, new U.S. federal regulations require healthcare providers that receive federal assistance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible.
With web accessibility a growing concern for providers of children’s health information, many organizations are turning to established standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The WCAG framework provides a list of recommendations at three different levels that organizations can use to make their website accessible.
In order to improve the equality of healthcare outcomes, as well as comply with the applicable laws and regulations, providers of children’s health information must make their websites accessible. For more information about how you can comply with web accessibility guidelines such as WCAG 2.0, follow the Bureau of Internet Access blog, or schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our accessibility experts.