Today, ACB President Dan Spoone sent a letter to the Biden-Harris Administration to request immediate action be taken for accessible rapid testing options for our community. This is as direct result of the challenges raised by our ACB Members and the inaccessibility of current testing options.
American Council of the Blind
1703 N. Beauregard St. Suite 420
Alexandria, VA 22311
January 21, 2022
Director of Disability Policy
Whitehouse Domestic Policy Council
Dear Dr. Kimberly Knackstedt:
As the President of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), I write to you on behalf of our members and community regarding President Biden’s rollout of the free at-home rapid Corona Virus tests for all Americans. ACB is deeply concerned for the blind and visually impaired Americans who, because the tests are physically inaccessible to them, will not be able to take advantage of the rollout, and ask that the administration implement an alternative accessible service for individuals who are blind and experiencing vision loss.
The American Council of the Blind is a national membership organization comprised of blind, visually impaired, and sighted individuals. The mission of ACB is to improve the quality of life, security, independence, and equality of opportunity for all individuals who are blind and experiencing vision loss in the United States. While we commend the administration for making rapid at-home COVID-19 tests free and readily available for all Americans, because of the way the tests are to be administered and the way they deliver results, blind and visually impaired individuals are unable to use them safely and independently.
Individuals who are blind and experiencing vision loss cannot independently and safely use the rapid Covid tests because neither the instructions for how to administer the tests nor the way the results are delivered are accessible. The instructions are not effectively communicated through alternative formats, including but not limited to braille, large print, audio, or tutorial videos with audio description and closed captioning, making it difficult for users to follow along and use the tests correctly. The tests also alert the user as to whether they contracted the disease by changing colors, which is extremely difficult if not impossible for blind and visually impaired individuals to see.
Given the severity of the pandemic and the rapid spread of the Omicron Variant, it is imperative that the administration quickly implement alternatives to the rollout for blind and visually impaired Americans. One alternative that the administration should consider is allowing individuals who are blind and visually impaired access to a mobile testing program in which providers travel to the home of the individual to administer and deliver the results of the test. Because blind and visually impaired individuals cannot drive and should not use public transportation or rideshare to travel to and from a testing site when experiencing COVID-like symptoms, these individuals need a safe way to be tested. If conducted in this manner, the provider should be a trained medical professional wearing personal protective equipment to minimize the spread of the virus. Although this service would not provide the same level of privacy and independence as making the at-home tests accessible, this could serve as a temporary solution to provide accessible at-home rapid test instructions and results in the interim while accessible at-home rapid tests are developed.
Additionally, the administration should require pharmaceutical companies to develop rapid at-home Covid tests that provide the instructions in alternate formats, including but not limited to braille, large print, audio, and tutorial videos with audio description and closed captioning. The instructions should provide a phone number or hotline for blind and visually impaired users to call for step-by-step audio instructions. Additionally, the tests should deliver results in a multi-sensory manner other than a visual-only color change. For example, the results could be communicated through tactile indicators such as distinct patterns of raised bumps for positive and negative results or conveyed audibly using a similar technology to that used to make prescription drug labels accessible.
The Administration must keep in mind that the implemented accessible at-home testing alternatives must not rely solely on the use and ownership of broadband enabled technology. Many people who are blind use and have access to connected technology, however many more do not, whether due to personal preference, useability, broadband availability and/or affordability. For these reasons, the Administration must ensure that accessible COVID at-home testing alternatives are equitably available to all persons with disabilities.
I ask you to provide accessible options for all Americans who are blind or visually impaired for at-home covid tests and implement auxiliary aids to provide effective communication. ACB stands ready to work in collaboration with the Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the private sector to ensure the accessibility of all forms of at-home medical testing and to be a partner in planning for the future. To this end, I look forward to reviewing your response on this topic by close of business on Monday, January 31.
American Council of the Blind
cc: Voorde, Emily F.
If you require a covid test at this time, please visit www.covidtests.gov or call 800-232-0233 and TTY: 888-720-7489. Both Be My Eyes and Aira currently offer their services for a step-by-step guide for at-home rapid tests.
- Aira Testing Tips worksheet: https://aira.io/aira-covid-promotion/
- Be My Eyes: https://www.bemyeyes.com/
- At-Home Coronavirus Tests Are Inaccessible to Blind People