Boston, MA - While the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act has made great strides specific to physical access, there is still a significant gap around accessible digital information. Assistive technology tools exist, such as audible screen readers, but the success of those tools hinges on the thoughtful and inclusive design of digital information. Spaulding Rehabilitation Network has taken a major step to close that gap by teaming with Perkins Access, the commercial consulting group at Perkins School for the Blind, to design a patient-first website (spauldingrehab.org) which sets a new standard for usability and accessibility.
Spaulding patient Chris Hoeh tested the new site and commented, “I use my phone for most of my online needs and navigate using my thumb, which doesn’t work on most sites. It would be incredible if all organizations followed Spaulding’s lead and considered users of every ability when designing their sites.”
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) specify how to make content accessible and usable by audiences of varying needs and abilities. Spaulding’s new website reaches beyond these compliance standards to incorporate inclusive design and usability testing. The expert team, which also included Hero Digital and Klish, considered key areas of accessibility including -- color and contrast, keyboard access and text alternatives -- as it presented the complex information required for a world-renowned academic teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, while still impactful, inspiring and engaging for all users.
As with the opening of the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown in 2013, we aimed to go beyond compliance and set a new standard for inclusive design. The patients we serve have a wide range of abilities and it is imperative that everyone can access digital information on the care, research, education and advocacy that is so central to what we do. Partnering with Perkins, an organization aligned with us in spirit, to achieve these lofty goals has been a wonderful experience, said David Storto, President, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and Partners Continuing Care.
As companies create more inclusive digital properties to improve their customers’ experiences, it’s crucial that accessibility is considered from the outset,” said Luiza Aguiar, executive director of Perkins Solutions. “When digital accessibility is bolted onto existing assets, people with disabilities are more likely to encounter issues and barriers while trying to access information. Spaulding recognizes this and optimizes online engagement for all in its patient-centered site.
The project team conducted rigorous user testing with people who represent Spaulding’s patient population, which encompasses a broad spectrum of age, socio economics, gender and disability. Patients with minimal to no mobility, with cognitive challenges and visual impairments were able to complete key tasks on the new Spaulding website using a number of devices, including desktop computers, tablets, smartphones along with assistive technology. Perkins Access and Spaulding highlighted their partnership in a video so other providers and organizations can learn from Spaulding’s project and adopt the approaches.
“We are so fortunate to be in a community with amazing organizations such as Perkins Access who can merge their expertise with our efforts to produce something that will truly be a new standard for others to aim for in a digital space. I often say all of us are merely temporarily able and at some point, as our world becomes more digital, we will need accessible websites so we can get what we need to ensure we maintain the highest quality of life possible. All of us who were part of this look forward to sharing what we learned and look forward to others following the path we have shown. Because at the end of the day, with millions of people with a disability wanting to participate in our economy and workforce, accessibility is simply just good business,” said Oz Mondejar, Senior Vice President, Mission and Advocacy, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.
About Spaulding Rehabilitation Network
A member of Partners HealthCare, the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network includes Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, with a main campus in Charlestown the 2nd ranked rehabilitation hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report, along with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod, Spaulding Hospital Cambridge, Spaulding Nursing and Therapy Center Brighton, and 25 outpatient sites throughout Eastern Massachusetts. An acclaimed teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School and home to the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding is recognized as the top residency program in the U.S. in the 2018/2019 Doximity Residency Navigator. Spaulding also was recognized by the 2018 Disability Equality Index as a “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion.” For more information, please visit www.spauldingrehab.org.
About Perkins Access
Perkins Access provides digital accessibility consulting services to help organizations make user-centered and sustainable accessibility decisions that create inclusive digital experiences, products and services. As part of Perkins School for the Blind, world leader in services for people with visual impairments and other disabilities, Perkins Access is a trusted advisor to companies, governments and educational institutions. Learn more at Perkins.org/access.