Millions of Americans have vision impairments and ensuring their access to websites is not only important for their health but is also a good business practice.
Although some websites are mostly compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), researchers with Miami Lighthouse for the Blind found that many major pharmacy chains’ websites are not fully accessible to patients with blindness or other vision impairments.
Many blind patients use screen-reading software, but in order for that to work, websites need to have some built-in capabilities, such as alternative text on images, according to Virginia Jacko, MS, president and CEO at Miami Lighthouse. Widgets enabling patients to change font sizes or color contrast are not difficult to implement, according to Jacko. She added that not only is it important for many patients, but it’s simply good business practice.
“All of these pharmacists are missing a huge opportunity, because not a single pharmacy had what you call a widget,” Jacko said in a press release. “It’s not a big deal to make websites accessible. The problem is the lack of knowledge in the sighted community.”
In the audit performed by Miami Lighthouse, a Florida rehabilitation organization serving the blind, investigators analyzed the websites of CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Walmart, Navarro, and Target pharmacies. Each website was scored between 1 and 4, with 1 being an inaccessible website and 4 being a totally accessible website.
CVS and Walgreens were nearly identical, Jacko said, with scores of 3.5 and 3.45, respectively. They were followed by Rite-Aid (3.3), Walmart (3), Navarro (2.91), and Target (2.82). Alternative text for photos and graphics was a major issue across the board, but it’s easily fixed, according to Jacko. Every pharmacy was also deemed “not accessible at all” regarding the ability to change color contrast and font size.
Other criteria included whether the websites were organized for ease of navigation; whether headings were properly structured for the screen-reading technology; whether users can select links with keystroke commands; whether they can play or pause any videos; whether users can control changing images; whether users can easily fill out forms on the site; and whether error messages are formatted for the screen-reading software.
Finally, Jacko said one of the most important criteria is whether the sites had an accessibility statement outlining their commitment to accessibility. She said she was shocked to discover that Target did not have a statement—the only website lacking it—whereas Navarro’s statement lacked key elements. Both pharmacies scored a 1 on that criteria.
Although issues such as this have led to lawsuits in e-commerce, retail, and other spaces, Jacko said the goal of Miami Lighthouse is to help companies become more accessible. She said she would be happy to work with pharmacies to ensure that their patients have full access to the website. Jacko estimated that 30 million elderly Americans need to change the font size or color contrast on websites. She added that ensuring their access to needed information is especially important during times such as the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
“I guarantee you that [increasing accessibility] will generate business because of the large number of seniors that are stuck at home and don’t want to go out, and have vision impairment,” Jacko said.
2020 ADA Compliance Meter Report: Pharmacy Chains. Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; August 2020. Email; received August 20, 2020. Accessed August 28, 2020.