Online access for disabled people: the latest update


With the Olympic Games and, more significantly for this newsletter, the Paralympics about to start, the issue of accessibility for all is very much at the forefront of people’s minds.

Everyone needs accessible information, however significant numbers of people with health conditions or impairments find it difficult to read the ‘average’ information available. Now more than ever there is an increasing emphasis on providing information that ensures everyone is included.

This is certainly true with the NHS and adult social care sector, and you are probably aware of the new Accessible Information Standard which is being introduced this year. This standard is designed to ensure disabled people are provided with information in a format they can understand and receive appropriate support to help them communicate.

All organisations providing NHS or adult social care must follow the Accessible Information Standard by law. The standard’s introduction has been a phased process, but from July 31 (Sunday) it must be fully implemented.

The Accessible Information Standard and your practice website

At Silicon Practice, we have been taking a number of calls about the Accessible Information Standard and how it relates to practice websites.

The short answer is, practice websites are not impacted by the standard, because they are beyond its scope.

However, practice websites are affected by NHS guidelines, which require that websites are accessible to all.

And as we cater solely for the health sector we are committed to ensuring everyone can access websites designed by Silicon Practice. This includes people with sight problems and cognitive impairments, as well as users with older browsers and those who have newer technologies, such as smartphones and tablets.

Our websites are designed to adhere to all current accessibility standards and, in particular, to meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.00), the recommended standard required within the NHS Website Guidelines. It’s simply good practice!

Technology to improve accessibility is developing all the time, and we ensure we are on trend. For example, the latest way that accessibility to websites is handled is within the users’ browser rather than directly on the website. In other words, the user sets their browser to accommodate their particular needs – whether that is visual, auditory, physical, cognitive, or neurological. Once set, the browser will then display all websites the same way. One simple change, for one significant result.

So how can my practice improve online accessibility?

There are some simple steps that practices can take to support people with impairments.

For example, the BMA suggests practices encourage new patients to inform staff about their particular communication needs in relation to disability, visual impairments or sensory lost. They suggest that this question could be included on the New Patient Registration form.

We can easily amend your online New Patient Registration form to include pertinent questions about communication and disability – please just drop your web editor a line and we’ll happily do this for you.

There are many other tips and ideas in the BMA Guidelines on Accessible Information. We would be more than happy to chat with you about ways to make your online presence more user-friendly for people with disabilities. Please do get in touch.

In the meantime, enjoy the Olympics and the Paralympics – a true testament to what people can achieve and what difficulties can be overcome.