Webinar: Health Care for People who are Blind

 

audio version (opens in a new tab)

 

 

 

 

Introduction

One’s health is important to consider. On June 15, 2021, I attended a webinar by the

Great Lakes ADA Center

Entitled

“Health Care Access for Patients and Companions that are Blind or Experiencing Vision Loss”.

In this blog post, I will summarize the presentation and provide my own perspective as a person who is blind.

Disabilities Overview

The presenter stated that the number of people with disabilities is expected to increase within the next decade. He stated that presently, 20% of the U.S. population has a disability. People with disabilities have different individual needs. For example, different people have different information access or effective communication needs. The ADA requirements pertaining to healthcare were then discussed.

Legal Overview: Americans with Disabilities Act*ADA)

The presenter emphasized that communication must be effective for people who are visually-impaired, just like any type of disabilities. Under Title II covering state and local government, the primary consideration should be the person’s preferred method of communication. If that is not possible, a sufficient alternate communication must be used. Policies must also be modified to accommodate people with disabilities. Example: no-pets policy must allow service animals. All services must be accessible to people with disabilities. The presenter gave example of healthcare facilities having accessible web sites. Under Title III (places of public accommodations), sufficient accommodations must be provided to people with disabilities (auxiliary aids and services). Additionally, navigation assistance must be provided so people can get around a healthcare facility. Just like ADA Title II, effective communication is required under Title III. For example, healthcare forms must be accessible for people with disabilities. Focus then moved to other federal laws affecting people with disabilities.

Other Laws

The expectation for effective communication was first emphasized in the Rehabilitation Act of 1963, Section 504. In a healthcare setting, effective communication can include having information read out loud. The presenter then focused on Section 1557 of the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act (ACA). The ACA reiterates need for effective communication in a healthcare setting. That obligation applies under the ACA even if the healthcare is a private facility. Different types of communication may be necessary depending on complexity or circumstances. The bottom line regarding effective communication is access to information. The presenter then focused on his own perspective as a blind person with input from a second presenter with same disability.

Perspectives of Presenters

Due to the pandemic, remote access to healthcare has been more available. Remote healthcare should be accessible. If staff puts information in a hospital room, identification of who the person is and/or what items are by a sighted person is crucial. Communication can also help the person with disability specify any assistance needs. It was pointed out that there are different types of reading types and vision levels. For example, not everyone with vision limitation can read braille and some people have sight. Some people with vision limitations use a cane, others use a guide dog. Sighted guide is also a possibility depending on individual needs. It was pointed out that each person is unique. It is also important to provide sufficient directions to get from one place to another. It is also helpful to orient the patient to a room. Orientation means what will happen and items which are in the room. A presenter reiterated importance of healthcare staff asking what the individual needs. I will now share my own perspective.

Blake’s Perspective

In any healthcare situation, it is definitely crucial to know what is happening. I switched primary care doctors some years ago because the person I was seeing would not tell me what he was doing. I asked multiple times during two visits and the individual chose not to answer my questions. As a result, I switched to someone in the same facility who has always accommodated my disability-related needs. I recognize and pay due tribute to the

MyChart

healthcare portal for being accessible to people who are blind such as myself. Fantastic! I also want to share a resource which a presenter alluded to but did not mention book title or author specifically. Available from

National Braille Press (NBP),

I recommend a healthcare guide by Deborah Kendrick.  To my knowledge, she is a blind newspaper columnist based in Ohio.  Her book,

Navigating Healthcare When All They Can See Is that You Can’t”,

Is available in a variety of formats. If you don’t know braille, no worries. The healthcare book is also available from NBP in Microsoft Word or large print formats. I purchased the book in physical braille format when it was released a couple of years ago. I consider it to be very informative because it can help readers prepare for healthcare situations and advocate for themselves. Accessing important information and advocating for yourself are both definitely important.

Question

Question for readers: If you experienced difficulty in a healthcare situation for disability-related reasons, what happened? I will return with another article.

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