We have grave concerns that many NHS service-linked information websites may be failing in their primary purpose of helping vulnerable people become empowered through access to meaningful information, write Dr Gavin Newby and Dr Christine Groom

We recently asked 21 severely brain-injured clients attending our community rehabilitation service to evaluate our service website and complete practical tasks to show how usable the site was. The website is hosted within our primary care trust's larger site and aims to provide information on a range of relevant issues from 'what is a brain injury?' to 'returning to driving'.

Although the participants' overall evaluations were favourable, the assessment process highlighted problems with legibility and comprehension and identified confusing elements in the layout. Like many public service websites, neither our website nor its PCT host fully complied with the accessibility guidelines set out by the Disability Discrimination Act code of practice or the World Wide Web Consortium.

We feel our study shows a real need for actual users to be involved in the development and maintenance of NHS information websites to ensure maximum accessibility. We have been impressed that our PCT has taken on board the findings of our work. It is willing to incorporate our suggested site modifications and has invited two of our users to join a web readers' panel across the whole trust.

Dr Gavin Newby is a consultant clinical neuropsychologist at South Cheshire Acquired Brain Injury Service. Dr Christine Groom is a trainee clinical psychologist at Lancaster University.