For designers who work in the healthcare industry, creating UX design to accommodate HIPAA laws has become a gold standard. Protecting patient privacy is a given and designing software to transmit information in a secure way is no longer a rare skill, rather just a specialty. However, as of January 18, 2018, there is now a new challenge for healthcare organizations to overcome: compliance with 508 standards. These standards now require federal websites and software to be accessible by people with disabilities.
508 Standard Compliance Explained
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first law that required that all federal agencies provide individuals with disabilities with reasonable accommodation. These regulations were updated in 1998 to include section 508, the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, which extended the existing regulations to digital and electronic technology. However, since it has been nearly two decades since its last update, the Access Board implemented a new "refresh" to the 508 standards, which went into effect on January 18, 2018. These new standards bring the language up to current on today’s technology for websites and software applications.
To be compliant with 508 Standards, your website and application must be accessible by people:
With Limited Vision
Without Perception of Color
With Limited Hearing
With Limited Manipulation
With Limited Reach and Strength
With Limited Language, Cognitive, and Learning Abilities
Furthermore, if your website or application requires hardware, this hardware must meet compliance standards as well. Hardware devices with user interfaces must also be compliant, and/or allow for a user to attach and utilize their own assistive devices (ie: a screen reader).
How 508 Applies to Healthcare
With the new update, all government healthcare organizations and the vendors that they use are now required to be in compliance with 508 standards. This, therefore, not only impacts federal organizations, but any software, device or website which is used by federal healthcare services including Medicaid, Medicare, Insurance Exchanges, veterans and military healthcare, and more.
All organizations and their vendors will need to update their software and websites to be in compliance, or face government fines.
UX design for 508 Compliance
The challenge that organizations now face is that very few UX designers are familiar with UX design for 508 compliance. It’s a highly skilled type of designing and requires comprehensive understanding how different design aspects affects people with varying levels of disabilities. For example, there are strict guidelines on how websites can use strobing images, as more than 3 flashes per second is a known trigger for seizures. A designer must also understand how adaptive devices, such as screen readers, will read the text on their screen and the design must accommodate for this.
In order to facilitate the movement of organizations to compliances, the government has released a variety of toolkits for references. At the top of this, it is stressed that designers must first understand the core foundations for web accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Within these foundations, they are then to adhere to the following guidelines:
Text Alternatives: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
Time-based Media: Provide alternatives for time-based media
Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
Keyboard Accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use content.
Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.
Predictable: Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
Compatible: Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.
While the toolkits provide great information on how to get started, in order to ensure compliance it is best to work with an expert UX designer in healthcare with experience with 508 Standards. For more information and a free estimation on bringing your site or application up to 508 standards, schedule a free consultation, give us a call at (800) 863-6914 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.