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When blind technology instructor Chancey Fleet opened an at-home Covid-19 testing kit earlier this winter, she knew she’d need eyesight to operate it properly.
Ms. Fleet finished the exam with the assistance of her sighted husband and said she originally dismissed the experience as a minor annoyance. However, when she considered the many individuals who are blind and do not have access to a sighted person who can assist them, she changed her mind. Her Twitter rant over the accessibility of the Covid-19 testing went viral.
In an interview, Ms. Fleet said, “We need to look at the Covid testing process, break it down into component pieces of the process, and find out how to make them more inclusively constructed.” She went on to say that this might include anything from assessing test pricing to determining the intelligibility of their directions.
Covid- at-home Since December, 19 tests have been in high demand as diseases spread and individuals sought them before of holiday celebrations. Accessibility advocates believe home test kits are especially crucial for individuals who can’t wait in lengthy lines for public testing centers or can’t get to them.
The Biden administration hopes to give 1 billion free at-home tests by the end of this month, but some health-policy experts believe it will fall short of demand.
Obtaining at-home exams is just one of the issue for persons with disabilities: They find it difficult or impossible to utilize many of the kits on their own. Some employ colors to transmit information, making it difficult for colorblind users to complete the exam properly; others lack online audio or video supplements to their textual instructions; and still others demand physical accuracy and skill to administer.
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The issues are similar of the early last year incident with Covid-19 vaccination booking systems, when persons with impairments were at a disadvantage when trying to schedule appointments.
For example, the popular Abbott Laboratories BinaxNow Covid-19 home test kit instructs customers to examine if a control line moves from blue to pink-purple to ensure that the test was successful.
According to Kathryn Albany-Ward, founder and CEO of Colour Blind Awareness, the hues show little contrast with each other and with the test’s white backdrop.
“Because there are varying kinds and degrees of color blindness,” Ms. Albany-Ward said in an email, “tests should be constructed such that the lines have the most contrast with the backdrop color.”
The Biden administration is expanding Covid testing locations and distributing 500 million Covid tests to Americans to help battle Omicron. Daniela Hernandez of the Wall Street Journal explains why testing is still a problem in the United States two years after the epidemic began. David Fang contributed to this illustration.
According to an Abbott representative, the tests were created to be inexpensive and accessible in order to reach as many individuals as possible.
“As we look to future test creation, we’ll continue to build with accessibility and cost in mind, as well as look at how testing and technology may work together to provide at-home testing for even greater accessibility, such as [for] individuals with poor eyesight,” she added.
Many test creators claim that their tests are accessible via methods such as phoning a helpline for assistance with instructions or using them with the assistance of a caregiver.
Some, on the other hand, offer or promise to provide applications to assist.
According to a representative for Quidel Corp., the producer of the QuickVue At-Home OTC Covid-19 test, the company is working on a companion app that will give automated result interpretation for colorblind persons.
She said, “Everyone at Quidel is working constantly to accommodate the overwhelming demand for testing for all Americans.”
The Cue Health Inc. kit has companion applications for Android and iOS mobile devices that may exchange findings. According to a spokeswoman, the applications are compatible with screen reader technology, which may make the findings audible.
“We’re always iterating on our technology, including doing dedicated accessibility tests,” he said, “to guarantee we’re receiving the information we need to make Cue accessible and user-friendly for everyone.”
Ellume USA LLC’s Covid-19 test works in a similar way, with an app that contains an educational video and shows the words “positive” or “negative” to indicate results, which can also be sent to users’ addresses, according to the business.
However, more accessible testing might be more expensive. Ellume’s single-test kit costs about $38 in certain places, while Cue’s three-test box costs $225.
At Walmart, a BinaxNow package containing two tests costs roughly $20, while at Kroger, it costs $24.
“People who are elderly or newly blind, or who lack those computer skills or internet access, are unable to purchase more accessible testing,” Ms. Fleet said.
According to Jim McKinney, a spokesperson for the US Food and Drug Administration, persons with impairments should be able to complete home testing with the help of another person.
More options should be offered as quickly as possible, according to accessibility experts, partially because soliciting the support of others poses the danger of transferring Covid-19.
“We are Americans who will become sick just like everyone else,” said Bryan Bashin, CEO of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group.
Ann-Marie Alcántara can be reached at [email protected]
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