Patient, heal thyself! Advocating for accessible healthcare websites


  • John Brobst

    1. Florida State University, John Brobst, Information Institute, Florida State University, Room 010 Louis Shores Building 142 Collegiate Loop, PO Box 3062100, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2100
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The purpose of this research is to examine healthcare websites to determine their current level of accessibility based on the criteria established in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Web accessibility refers to providing equal access to the Internet and equal opportunity to use the Internet for people with disabilities. The unique value of this investigation lies in the attempt to identify what interventions could serve to improve the observed levels of website accessibility in healthcare websites.

Federal public laws demonstrate a concern for assuring equal rights and access for those with disabilities. However, the intent of the laws, being to achieve accessibility, has not been accomplished. Recent studies have shown that most categories of websites have low accessibility levels. If allowed to continue, the failure to make accessibility a reality could result in the disenfranchising of a major segment of society.

The goal of this study is to determine what can be done, realistically and pragmatically, to make healthcare websites within the United States more accessible. The approach will be a multi-method examination of accessibility involving: policy analysis, online survey, expert testing, automated testing, and accessibility testing. Each method will add a unique value to the study and in combination will provide a fuller and richer understanding of the current status of healthcare website accessibility. The multi-method approach supports the Action Stance taken in designing this study. This Action Stance approach focuses on designing research efforts that lead to effective and positive change.

For this study, the positive changes will include developing a set of best practices towards attaining web accessibility, identifying interventions that promote accessibility, and making recommendations for improving the federal information policies that address website accessibility.