The web is packed with medical and health-related data, as a few keystrokes on any search engine will readily reveal. A gap exists, however, between the amount of data available and the amount that’s practically useful to the majority of citizens. Health literacy initiatives and government regulations aim to bridge that information gap, so individuals can make informed healthcare decisions.
Health Literacy: The Basics
Simplicity and accessibility are the foundational concepts of health literacy. The Plain Language Act of 2010 indicates that information should be presented in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner. That means replacing medical jargon with simple, instructive language, and teaching patients the right questions to ask when a health-related issue arises. Clear communication on health information and services allows patients to understand what might be wrong, where to go for help, and what to tell medical professionals when they get there.
Accessibility and Health Literacy
It’s important to remember that for many patients, simplified information and clear communication are not enough to establish the desired level of health literacy. The information also needs to be accessible, in order to accommodate all individuals. For some individuals, reading is difficult or impossible. This can be due to illiteracy or second-language challenges, both of which are widespread in this global society. There are also many health-related accessibility challenges. For individuals with learning disabilities like dyslexia, reading is often possible, but extremely difficult.
The list of accessibility challenges is long, but so is the list of solutions. It all starts with presenting clear information in the formats that individuals are comfortable using.
- Even the little things help. Allow users to adjust font size, avoid using fancy, difficult fonts, and choose colors which contrast well. Multimedia presentations are another sure way to increase accessibility.
- Tools like text to speech are easy to use, and allow individuals to quickly turn a health related text-based document into an audible experience. Accessibility challenges can be overcome, and most individuals will be able to understand the relevant information, as long as it’s presented in the right format.
- Text to speech can also be used for healthcare forms, allowing individuals to easily understand instructions and provide the correct information.
Accessibility and literacy regulations also apply far beyond healthcare. Whether you are dealing with financial data, legal information, or other complex concepts, an informed public will have an easier access to important data. Text to speech and accessibility awareness are key in that effort. [speech-enabling_websites] Image Credit: Ewa Rozkosz