by Veronica Elsea
Do you live with diabetes? Do you care for someone who lives with diabetes? Have you thought about using an insulin pump, but were told that it wasn’t accessible to you? Have you tried working with an insulin pump and given up in frustration? Do you feel like blindness has forced you to accept less than adequate diabetes management tools? You are definitely not alone! But finally, advocacy and cooperation just might be changing that narrative.
The Accessible Insulin Pump Task Force has been an active working group for almost two years. Originally initiated by the NFB, the task force is now a collaboration between ACB, NFB and CNIB.
Our goal is to form working partnerships with insulin pump manufacturers to create devices that are fully accessible to all, with an emphasis on those who are blind or low vision. The task force currently has 7 active members, six of whom are blind or low vision insulin pump users, giving a great deal of time, talent and effort toward making accessible insulin pumps a reality.
This past year featured the creation and presentation of a panel discussion, “Insulin Pump Access for All,” to which we invited representatives from several insulin pump and medical device manufacturers, giving them a chance to hear our stories, challenges, needs and suggestions for creating accessible insulin pumps for those who are blind or low vision. At the presentation on April 6, 2022, there were more than 60 attendees present, representing most of the major manufacturers.
As a result of this discussion, the task force has already had productive introductory meetings with Insulet, Tandem, Medtronic and Dexcom while still contacting others. We are encouraged by their enthusiasm, sincerity and early commitment to making their devices fully accessible.
We are excited to begin the next phase of our work, introducing these companies to millions of eager or desperate blind or low vision diabetics who want and need the benefits an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor can offer. After all, not only is diabetes still one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults, but millions who are blind from many other eye conditions are not immune from being diagnosed with diabetes or serving as a caregiver for a family member who lives with this diagnosis. As diabetes-related technology is evolving, we hope that medical companies will soon regard meeting our needs as a smart business decision, not as a legal liability. At the same time, we are striving to help them understand that accessibility means being able to safely and independently use their hardware, perform all of the extra steps like filling syringes, as well as using any smartphone apps which can be used to control the insulin pumps. We are also sharing resources to help them discover how easy it is to add speech output to the devices themselves.
We are still in the early stages of our work, but eventually more consumer input will be sought. As we expand our interactions with all manufacturers, we hope that forming good partnerships will ultimately lead to accessibility becoming part of the very early process of designing equipment and that more blind and low vision consumers will be part of the early design input and testing processes.
We are looking forward to the day when any person who is blind or low vision can choose and use an insulin pump in the same manner as their sighted peers, based solely on its features related to diabetes control. By working together and leveraging resources from three organizations, we believe that future insulin pumps will not leave us behind, being forced to use legacy technology, but will allow us to take advantage of new technologies which combine insulin pumps with continuous glucose monitors, automatically adjusting insulin delivery while we simply go about our daily lives like everyone else.
Please be patient, and stay tuned for further exciting updates from us.
Accessible Insulin Pump Task Force members:
Veronica Elsea, Chair
Tom Tobin, President, ACB Diabetics in Action
Kat Hamilton, CNIB
Ryan Hooey, CNIB