HEALTHCARE IT TODAY: Disabilities and Accessibility in Health IT: The Need Is Constant

Helathcare IT Today

August 23, 2022 — Andy Oram

Of all industries, health care above all should provide accessible web sites to support people with disabilities or special needs. Our field deals disproportionately with the elderly and with people who suffer a range of disabilities, physical and mental. Furthermore, the field is getting more and more digital with wellness sites, telehealth, and fitness devices—so making them accessible is crucial to making health care accessible.

Caroline Jerome, a designer who is a partner and chief creative officer at TBGA, pointed out to me that digital technologies have expanded the options available to disabled people. Accommodations, televisits, haptic feedback, etc., are great advances. But services designed without disabled people in mind can be discriminatory.

Many countries require web sites to meet accessibility guidelines; in the United States, both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and HIPAA include such requirements. Lawsuits to enforce these regulations have hit many companies. As Dylan Barrell, CTO of Deque Systems, writes in his Agile Accessibility Handbook (available for free by filling out a form): “The number of disability-related lawsuits increased by 181% in 2019 alone, and the cost of responding to a lawsuit (independent of the settlement costs) is $350,000.” (page 32 of the PDF)

But conforming to the innumerable recommendations is exhausting, and few site designers even know them all. I heard a story from Rafael Glantz, Partnership Success Manager at accessiBe, which offers tools for making web sites more accessible. When he spoke at an optometrists’ conference, he couldn’t interest the doctors in making their web sites more accessible to vision-impaired visitors. I guess it was an achievement at least to be invited to their conference.

During my interview with UserWay we ran a test on Healthcare Scene, the site where this article appears. Healthcare Scene uses a WordPress template. The test quickly turned up a lot of accessibility problems: For instance, some text would be hard for many people to read because its color was too close to the background color.

This series explores what constitutes accessibility online, and what experts are doing to move the health care field forward. We’ll hear more from accessiBe, as well as UserWayUniDoc, and Deque Systems, creators of the open source Axe-core. The series will also interview an UI/UX design expert and some organizations that are succeeding in the continuous process of making their sites accessible.

Accessibility isn’t simple

A huge number of conditions get in the way of people traversing online interfaces. A few such conditions include vision problems, hearing problems (applicable to videos and some alerts), attention problems such as ADHD, and mobility problems that make it hard to use a keyboard or mouse.

Most web sites today are not hand-coded, but use templates from DIY tools such as WordPress and Squarespace. Many of the early DIY tools omitted the clues that disabled visitors depend on—for instance using raw markup to make a phrase look like a heading when they should use an HTML tag for headings. The tools are doing better, though.

Brandon Cooper and Jennifer Dunphy Bowers, who lead the accessibility efforts at Get Real Health, point out that a disability might be temporary, caused perhaps by an accident or a surgical operation that requires extended recovery.

The topic of accessibility gets even broader. We shouldn’t forget people who are trying to understand displays in a language they don’t know well, or people who didn’t get the education to help them parse complex sentences. I’ll touch on these issues later in the series.

Jerome mentioned the experiences of their CTO, who is in a wheelchair and requires a ventilator. He navigates websites by traversing each link and tab. Each extra click on a mouse requires a great expenditure of energy. To him, accessibility includes minimizing the number of pages he has to click through and the number of dialogs he has to confirm.

The series focuses on web sites because they are ubiquitous, they benefit from comprehensive Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium, and most of the experts I talked to were working on them. Some principles also apply to devices and other interfaces.

For instance, UniDoc designed a modular virtual clinic that offers a private physical space for telehealth visits that offer full diagnostic capabilities. This H3 Cube environment, which I covered in a recent article. The Cube was designed specifically to meet ADA Standards for Accessible Design and international equivalents. The Cube is wheelchair-accessible and accessible to blind people as well as those who have trouble using computers. A trained technician or nurse is also always present and can enter the Cube to help the patient, if requested to do so.

The next article in the series looks at the relationship between automated and manual reviews of accessibility, and discusses some automated tools.


Sign Up For News Alerts

Enter your details below and we will add you to our News Alerts list.

Roberto Caon


Mr. Caon is an elected member of the Italian Parliament. Since 2013, he has been a Member of the Italian Republic with the functions of: member of the Transport, Digitization, and Communications Commission of the Italian Parliament, member of the Bicameral Commission for Regional Affairs, and member of the Agriculture Commission. In Parliament, counted among his numerous successes, he has assisted with the implementation of various telemedicine services in the family sector. He has done this through the identification of innovative processes for patient care and the strengthening of multi-professional and multidisciplinary collaboration between different professionals. This work is now included in the proposed National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the 750 billion European plan that the member countries will use for the recovery of national economies, severely tested by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Prior to his current role in the Italian Parliament, Mr. Caon has spent over 30 years as an entrepreneur coordinating and designing solutions and technologies in the engineering, automotive and manufacturing sectors that are currently employed in 34 countries and used by hundreds of companies in both B2B and B2B2C environments. He held the role of owner and administrator of Giorgia Srl., a small / medium company active in the automotive and manufacturing engineering sector. He has worked extensively in the development of foreign markets for various companies in the metalworking and manufacturing sectors. He is currently a member of many trade associations linked to his extensive personal entrepreneurial background.

Austin Thornberry


Mr. Thornberry is a seasoned finance professional with a background in advising start-up companies in the venture capital market. He brings extensive experience working with high-growth companies across numerous industries through his past work in the technology and innovation banking group at the Bank of Montreal and in the financial services arm of Ernst & Young advising on multiple capital markets transactions. He obtained his bachelor of commerce at McGill University and has held the CPA, CA, designation since 2019.

Matt Chatterton


Mr. Chatterton brings over 15 years of experience in development and execution of complex projects. His expertise includes project management, facility management, logistics, supply side processes and procedures at several operations in Canada and internationally. He has been involved in the public markets for the last three years managing initial public offering processes and transitioning businesses to postlisting operations. Mr. Chatterton is a professional engineer and graduate of Canada’s Queens University with a master’s degree in chemical process engineering (2003).

Sina Pirooz


Mr. Pirooz is a registered and practicing pharmacist, and has been a professional member of the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia since 2003, with over 20 years of pharmaceuticals and pharmacy management experience. As owner of a compounding pharmacy, Mr. Pirooz has been dispensing pharmaceuticals for over 18 years and provides pharmacist and pharmacy management services to many of Canada’s largest pharmacy chains and drug stores. Mr. Pirooz is also the CEO and a director of Genix Pharmaceuticals Corporation, a company listed for trading on the TSXV.

Dr. Sazzad Hossain, PhD

Chief Scientific Officer

He is the former Chief Scientific Officer of InMed Pharmaceuticals Inc., a leading public Canadian bio-pharmaceutical company. Previously he worked as Senior Scientist at Biotechnology Research Institute of National Research Council Canada. Working with the Canadian government he helped establish the pharmacology laboratory to evaluate safety and efficacy of cannabinoid-based and other drugs under development for cancer, cardiovascular and ocular diseases.

Jacob Moshinsky

Chief Operating Officer

Jacob is the CEO & founder of MoviWear a GPS, fall down detection & remote vital-sign monitoring platform, alerting caregivers of real-time emergencies. Jacob is a communications and technology expert with over 15 years’ experience in the field. the NurtureWatch health monitoring Smartwatch and MoviWearMED remote vital sign monitoring platform Prior to MoviWear, Jacob worked in both the Canadian telecom and the CPG industry. He led the Product Development and Business Strategy team at TELUS for the Small Business Portfolio. Jacob also worked in various product and service management roles within Rogers Communications where he launched and managed wireless and wireline products.

Antonio Baldassarre

CEO, President and Director

Mr. Baldassarre has held senior management and director positions of new business start-ups and established multinational organizations with over 30 years of experience in the Security, Information Technology and Communications industries. With leadership skills in management of international operations, shareholder exit strategies, and overall business development, he has utilized a wide range of strategic programs to maximize organic growth into specific industry segments through OEM, alliances, and direct multi-level distribution channels. Mr. Baldassarre is able to plan, organize and direct all aspects of a Corporation from Operations, P&L oversight, product distribution, Product promotions, sales and development activities and initiatives utilizing my extensive marketing/sales senior management experience with developed abilities in team leadership and program/campaign development. Directly involved in the growth, branding and ultimately optimizing market share, product awareness, revenues, profitability and shareholder value. Mr. Baldassare is also the President of LRG Security Canada Inc. and LRG Security Europe.

Franco Staino

Chairman of the Board of Directors

Mr. Franco Staino is the Developer of the Italian National anti-counterfeiting Program for Pharmaceuticals developed in conjunction with the Ministry of Health as well as the National Certification Program for all unsold Prescription Drugs in Partnership with Pharmindustria (National association of all Pharmaceutical Manufactures) through ASSINDE.

Through one of his Companies, Carlucci are responsible for the control, labelling and collection of all pharmaceutical prescription drugs in Italy, under the PHG umbrella Franco opened first a UK division, now has also expanded into 4 African countries. Over the Years Franco has been a Board Member and Contributor on various International Committees, including the United Nations.