Despite groundbreaking innovations in telehealth, the domain lacks in several aspects, like facilitating people with disparities. Hence, the WHO and ITU have come up with the launch of global standards to rectify the impairments in the discipline.
FREMONT, CA: The COVID-19 pandemic made a major contribution to the elevation of medical services, be it telehealth, AI and automation, or clinical technology. With telehealth services accelerating, it has become an essential requirement for the general population. However, accessing it does not seem to be easy, especially for the disabled, as they encounter numerous challenges in utilising telehealth services. That is, telehealth platforms are not compatible due to the lack of screen readers, captioning, or volume control in video conferences that help people with visual and hearing impairments.
Identified Challenges Faced by Disabled People
• Lack of compatibility of online platforms with screen readers or assistive devices like Braille keyboards, lack of colour contrast and screen magnification, and inaccessible websites or images
• Lack of captioning, text messaging and sign language interpretation
• Lack of text-to-speech generators and voice synthesisers
• Challenges with fine motor coordination, which are normally faced by people with an immobile nature
• Lack of privacy, safety and security control
To fathom and address these challenges, the World Health Organisation (WHO), along with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), has come up with a collaborative approach for developing a global standard for accessing health services. The standard, on the other hand, proffers a list of technical requirements that telehealth platforms ought to possess for ensuring accessible telehealth service provision. The best available evidence and comprehensive feedback, along with the input collected from civil society and industry, are the prominent arenas that the requirements rely on. These requirements are normally intended for Member States' regulations or legislation adoption. Thus, they must be implemented on a willing note by both healthcare professionals and manufacturers.
An event is planned accordingly for the official launch of the WHO-ITU global standard to access telehealth services. It is a collaborative effort between WHO and ITU. This event is the 15th session of the State Parties Conference for the convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is entitled "The Role of Industry in Making Telehealth Accessible for Persons with Disabilities". This event is expected to be an interactive session where WHO and ITU, combined with governments, civil society, the private sector, healthcare professionals and disabled persons communicate on the significance of accessible telehealth and adopting standards in national health agendas.
Thus, these new standards are aimed at aiding people with disabilities by altering the accessibility of telehealth technology.