Lateral flow tests still not accessible for blind people living in Cambridgeshire
A local sight loss charity is calling for action to ensure blind and visually impaired people have access to lateral flow testing.
Lateral flow tests are vitally important in our effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The free testing kits are a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms but who may still be spreading the virus.
However, local sight loss charity Cam Sight say blind and visually impaired people living in Cambridgeshire find the Covid test process inaccessible.
Mike Jenkins, Cam Sight chief executive said: “As we learn to live with Covid we cannot leave blind and visually impaired people behind. Throughout the pandemic the community we serve has already suffered increased anxiety and isolation. It is vitally important that an accessible test is available to allow all people to live the lives they choose.“
The test process presents many challenges for blind and visually impaired people. Identifying the correct end of the swab to use, inserting it into the vial and applying the correct amount of liquid to the test strip is very difficult. For many, taking the test and reading the result without assistance is not possible.
Cam Sight’s mobile support service lead Georgina Hollinshead said: “I am visually impaired and cannot take the test independently. My main issue when trying to complete a test is with the liquid dropper and coordinating this with the test display. I cannot tell how many drops of liquid are coming out of the dropper. I also cannot see where they are falling.
"I have flooded many tests when attempting to take them, thus invalidating the result. I cannot read my result from the test. I need help from someone with vision. As a key front-line worker, I need to take the test to keep our service users, my family and me safe.”
The RNIB recommend people with sight loss use a mobile app - Be My Eyes to assist them through the test process and read the result. The app connects blind and visually impaired people with sighted volunteers who help with daily tasks via a live chat.
Blind users can place a live video call, speak to a volunteer and receive step-by-step guidance through their camera feed.
Georgina is not comfortable relying on others and wants to see changes in the product to make it accessible to all.
She said “If a dye was added to the liquid it would be easier to see it. If an accessible method of transferring the required amount of liquid from the dropper to the test strip could be found, it might be possible to use. If the strip could clip to the end of the dropper and it could then be upended to transfer the liquid to the strip, it may make the process more doable for some.
"A tactile method of identifying the result would also be necessary. I believe such methods are available for other types of tests.”
In response to the pandemic, leading charities in the eye health and sight loss sector have come together to form a VI Charity Sector Partnership.
The RNIB, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Macular Society and Visionary charities are currently carrying out a pilot to improve the accessibility of testing instructions to include alternative formats but people living with blindness will still require help to carry out the test.