Health Insurance Marketplace

Accessibility Research and Roadmap Lead to Change for Inclusive Digital Design

The Problem

Applying for and shopping for health insurance is complicated. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange (WAHBE) operates Washington Healthplanfinder, the online marketplace that helps Washington State residents determine their eligibility for health insurance and apply for tailored insurance options. To ensure all residents have an easy-to-use customer experience WAHBE determined that it needed to integrate accessibility even more deeply into the digital design and agile development process.

The Solution

Armed with insights from user research, WAHBE went beyond legal accessibility requirements to invest in a more inclusive experience for users of Washington Healthplanfinder.

We collaborated with WAHBE to assess the accessibility of Washington Healthplanfinder and improve the overall user experience. Anthro-Tech led efforts to:

  • Research and document “best in class” examples of inclusive web designs
  • Update WAHBE’s customer personas to include people with disabilities
  • Benchmark Washington Healthplanfinder’s compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines, which includes criteria for people with cognitive disabilities, that can include ADHD or Dyslexia
  • Recommend best practices for integrating accessibility in the agile development cycle

Anthro-Tech observed how people with disabilities use the current Washington Healthplanfinder site, identified areas for improvement, and recommended design solutions based on data-driven insights. WAHBE stakeholders observed as Anthro-Tech led user research. Stakeholders witnessed how difficult it was for a user with a screen reader to navigate certain sections of Washington Healthplanfinder. Seeing these challenges firsthand helped create buy-in for efforts to improve accessibility. Changes to integrate accessibility into WAHBE’s design and agile development process resulted.

WAHBE made accessibility a core value and went beyond legal compliance. We provided WAHBE with:

  • A roadmap outlining how to incorporate accessibility in each step of product development
  • Data showing the site is doing well in terms of consistent compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines based on automated and manual accessibility audit
  • Documentation outlining areas to improve the accessibility and usability of Washington Healthplanfinder for people with disabilities, and suggested solutions and recommendations focused on inclusive design

We helped WAHBE leadership develop a plan for creating and hiring a new accessibility expert role within the organization. They recently filled this role and are onboarding their new accessibility expert using the roadmap and resources developed with Anthro-Tech.

Client Quote

“We did hire [an accessibility expert] and they are awesome! They started last week and are getting up to speed on all the great work your team did. It is amazing to be able to hand them such thorough documentation. Thank you again. You and your team have set us up very well.”

— Washington State Health Benefit Exchange

The Toolkit

Field Research

  1. Research to understand the tools and strategies people use when looking for a health insurance plan
  2. Contextual interviews with local accessibility experts in the field
  3. In-home usability tests with recruited participants who have a range of disabilities and may use assistive technologies including screen readers
  4. Review of scholarly articles on inclusive design and “best in class” examples of inclusive web design
  5. Assessment of current and recommended future automated and assistive technologies


  1. WCAG 2.1 AA baseline test
  2. Manual accessibility review using the Web accessibility initiative, “Easy Checks - A First Review of Web Accessibility” and W3C, Mobile Accessibility
  3. Automated accessibility review with IBM Dynamic Accessibility Plugin and Site Improve
  4. Automated review of code and analysis of multiple website templates
  5. Manual evaluation of screens with 10 test cases across three form factors (desktop, tablet and phone)
  6. Prioritized roadmap for WCAG 2.1 AA compliance
  7. Recommendations for updating the internal ADA checklist


  1. Systematic plan to develop and maintain accessibility during agile design sprints
  2. Proposal of resources to implement accessibility plan
  3. Examples of ongoing testing methods to keep digital accessibility on track
  4. Extensive list of recommended accessibility tools
  5. Accessibility documentation to onboard accessibility expert hire

Facts & Figures

  1. 10 participants with disabilities participated in the in-home usability study
  2. 7 local expert interviews with specialists in accessibility, including educators, developers, and government accessibility champions
  3. 3 existing personas updated to be inclusive of people with disabilities
  4. 1 manual accessibility review conducted by a blind accessibility expert