Making Cancer.Net Accessible to All

From the Editor's Desk
July 20, 2017
Lidia Schapira, MD, FASCO

Cancer.Net was designed to provide access to high-quality medical information for people living with cancer and their loved ones. This process involves constant re-evaluation and redesign, striving to improve access and usability for our large and diverse audience. Our focus remains on making information easy to find and useful, improving the process, while expanding the content.share on twitter  Removing barriers and improving access remain top priorities for our team, and over the past year, we have made significant improvements to Cancer.Net to improve its accessibility for all visitors, regardless of technology or ability. Let me share a few specific examples.

Web accessibility demands that the site remain useable for all visitors. Visitors should not become frustrated by the experience of visiting Cancer.Net. Building accessibility relies on using design features to help readers understand the content and by making it easy to find answers to their questions. One of the ways this can be done is by presenting information in multiple formats. For example, people with difficulties processing information may find it easier to learn by listening to a podcast in addition to reading the text of an article. Having the possibility of listening and reading may assist the visitor in understanding and retaining the information.

There are many ways that the design and structure of the site can make it easier to use. A person with visual or neurological disabilities will benefit from the website’s clear layout and design, which we hope will minimize frustration and save time and energy. With consistent styling, finding the information she seeks becomes easier and more intuitive.

We’ve improved interactive elements, such as form fields and buttons to help visitors who use screen readers. Changes to links, buttons, and controls can make clicking and tapping easier for those with reduced manual dexterity. Changes to the drop-down menus were designed to make it easier and faster to jump from 1 topic to another.

Adjustments to the website’s colors and contrast are a big and welcome change, and we hope this will also make it easier for readers with low vision or color blindness to explore our content. On the homepage and throughout the site, you will notice that the text now jumps out at you because it’s on a darker background. We’ve added text transcripts and captions to multimedia, including podcasts and videos, and image descriptions to anatomical images for those who are visually impaired.

Side by side comparison of Cancer.Net homepage, showing increased color contrast and new controls for rotating image
Cancer.Net homepage before (left) and after (right) accessibility updates

We hope that all of these changes will improve access for everyone, removing several barriers. Caring for every member of the community of patients and caregivers remains our top priority, and these small steps represent a team effort designed to anticipate and overcome common barriers for our diverse audience with various individual needs.

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