About the Chronic Illness Community

Chronic illnesses are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. Chronic Illnesses include Arthritis, Cancer, Crohn's Disease, Diabetes, Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), Lupus, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). 

Symptoms of all these conditions can be unpredictable and fluctuate, including difficulty walking, standing or sitting, mental fatigue (a hard time remembering or concentrating), and dizziness or disorientation. In addition, it can take months or years for people with chronic illnesses to get a diagnosis and the symptoms, treatments, and needs for individuals vary, even when they have the same chronic illness. 

Barriers to Inclusion

  • The medical field lacks in depth knowledge of many chronic illnesses, preventing early or accurate diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Society often judges the chronic illness community based on how they are feeling from day to day. If they aren't consistently sick, people can view them as faking, while in actuality, chronic illness has its good days and bad days. 
  • General lack of knowledge within society on the cognitive toll that a chronic illness can have on someone, including brain fog, fatigue, and mood changes.
  • Meetings scheduled back-to-back in workplaces without allotted breaks in between can create issues for the community, not giving people enough time to take medication, use needed facilities, or to just re-energize. 
  • Insufficient time limits to respond or to complete tasks, such as to fill out online forms, or too many tasks on one page with no break between tasks.​
  • Inconsistent and overly complicated navigation mechanisms and page functions.​
  • Auto-playing videos and animations.
  • Lack of alternatives for movement-intensive tasks.
  • Password fields that require biometric data or movement only.
  • Password fields that do not allow an authentication app to access them.
  • Form fields that do not allow for auto-complete or copy/pasting of content.
  • Websites not coded with voice recognition in mind.

Article: Digital Accessibility and Chronic Pain

In this article, Veronica Lewis discusses why it's important to design for chronic pain. Veronica walks through several use cases to consider when designing a digital experience with chronic illnesses in mind.

Video: Disability not Invisibility: My Experience with Chronic Illness

In this TED presentation, Victoria “Vicky” Potter talks about her experience with chronic illness, provides an overview of non-apparent disabilities, accessibility, and stigmas Vicky faces on a regular basis.

Article: How Managers Can Support Employees with Chronic Illnesses

Co-written by Victoria Woolfrey, this article provides managers with three recommended steps to take to ensure they approach conversations around chronic illness with empathy and confidence.

Amplifying the Voices of the Chronic Illness Community

Our goal on this site is to amplify the voices of each community. Disability communities are often spoken over or spoken for when they are already speaking out for themselves.

Understanding How the Chronic Illness Community Accesses the Web

The Chronic Illness community can use various types of assistive technology (AT). As the community is diverse, not everyone will use the same type of AT. It's critical to remember to design and develop a digital experience that's accessible so that web content can be accessed by any AT. 

  • Display Modes: Pre-defined visual configurations you can set on your device, such as high contrast mode, dark mode, reader mode, and reduced motion mode. Helps people read and take action on the content being display and, in some cases, removes distractions or health triggers.
  • Speech Recognition Software: A computer program that types words as you speak them into a microphone to dictate emails, navigate websites, etc. Think of it as replacing the keyboard with your speech.​ 
  • Text-to-Speech: Reads digital text aloud. It's sometimes called “read aloud” technology. Helps people who struggle with reading or digesting text on the computer screen. TTS is now commonly used in everyday products, such as audiobooks, virtual assistants (e.g., Alexa, Echo, Siri), etc.