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Hope for ‘tactile’ RATs for vision impaired

Vision 2020 Australia is working closely with its members to inform the federal government that Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) are inaccessible to people who are blind or vision impaired and is proposing potential solutions.

“These tests are inaccessible to people who are blind or have vision loss, because the test results are presented visually, the processes are often complex, and the instructions are only provided in print,” the organisation said.

Separate organisation – Vision Australia – has also called on the government to implement further measures to ensure the vision impaired community can get access to results in a timely manner, ABC News reported.

Vision 2020 Australia acknowledged federal and state governments have this year been transitioning toward RATs to screen for COVID-19, in order to minimise pressure on PCR testing sights.

“We appreciate steps already taken, such as the provision of free tests to holders of concession cards, and the recently introduced capacity for NDIS participants to purchase tests using their plan funding,” the organisation stated.

In terms of potential solutions, Vision 2020 said services such as Aira and Be My Eyes – apps that connect blind and low-vision people with sighted people who can visually interpreting the former’s surroundings – may be helpful for some.

“Both offer free assistance in completing Rapid Antigen Tests. However, these services rely on smartphones, internet, and technical literacy, so are not a solution for all people,” Vision 2020 said.

Aira is offering 30 minutes free COVID-19 related assistance, including reading out RAT instructions and results.

Aira’s director of customer communication Jenine Stanley told Vision Australia that difficulties with RATs was a common concern.

“We really started hearing from people that these tests are not accessible at all, there’s very little material online, they’re a very difficult physical test to do because there are a lot of fiddly parts,” she said.

In the interim, Vision 2020 Australia is calling for increased national access to PCR tests at home, similar to the ‘Call-to-test’ system currently available in Victoria, as well as a mailout system to provide free RATs for people with disabilities including vision loss.

Longer term, Vision 2020 believes the solution is innovation.

“The Royal National Institute of Blind People [in the UK] recently released a prototype pregnancy test which delivers results in tactile rather than visual form. This proves it is possible to design accessible Rapid Antigen Tests, and we hope to see these widely available in the future.”

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