Are high-tech innovations increasing medical access, or are they putting restrictions on patients with disabilities?
Health care providers are aware of and comply with ADA accessibility, but what about the barriers created by technology for patients with communication and processing differences?
With apps such as Doctor on Demand, telemedicine has become a powerful tool that can lower health care costs , increase patient monitoring and bring patient care to isolated areas. Yet the accessibility of telemedicine depends on the individual’s needs.
Treating patients with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder might require certain accommodations, such as recording the session for repeated viewing, providing written follow-up and paying careful attention to the patient’s body language. It’s easy to overlook these factors when people aren’t physically in the room with you, but telemedicine makes it even more important that practitioners be mindful of them.
Visual content such as health-related infographics can help you share information with your audience. If that content isn’t engineered to respond to screen readers, it will be inaccessible for those with visual impairments or others with limited literacy or disabilities that hamper information-processing functions.
As the use of videos increases on health care websites, so does the demand for captioning to accommodate patients with hearing impairments. These same patients can’t use telemedicine conferencing if the content isn’t interpreted for them or accompanied by text chat.
Technology has been democratizing communication for disabled individuals, particularly through the use of augmentative and alternative communication (ACC). This is a common mode of communication for people with autism, but people with a wide variety of disabilities use ACC to communicate. ACC may be digital—involving typing or image-based communication—and can limit the ways that the user interacts with others, but this form of communication ought to be treated equally, even as we push digitization.