Improvements sought for at-home COVID tests to help visually impaired

Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 11:54 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - At-home COVID tests have started to arrive at homes.

The U.S. government began taking orders for free rapid tests two weeks ago with the goal to alleviate shortages.

However, for those who are visually impaired having a test and being able to use one are not the same.

Tony Compton was born with a hereditary condition that gradually took away his vision.

“There wouldn’t be any reason for me to order up a test I couldn’t get done,” said Compton.

Using a rapid test would not only require accurate hand-eye coordination, but reading the instructions and results requires vision.

“I don’t have a guarantee that someone can come here and help me do that,” said Compton.

Director of blind and low vision programs at Northern Nevada Independent Living, Mark Tadder says, many who live independently have reached out to the center wondering what to do.

“At our center, we had to scramble to find ways to get those folks tests,” said Tadder. “A lot of people are sitting at home and they have no way to get a test and they’re afraid to go out and or stand in line if they’re feeling sick. They don’t want to travel or expose anyone else.”

He’s also visually impaired and says ordering the tests is ironically very easy if you have a smartphone.

“But once I get them it’s just a box,” said Tadder.

Now, with millions of these kits available, the National Federation of the Blind is asking the government to consider more vulnerable Americans.

Disability advocates have suggested for directions to be available in audio format or brail, along with making the results more tactile by adding raised bumps people can feel.

“I’d like for you to put a blindfold on and take this test in front of the camera,” said Compton. “Then maybe you will recognize and understand that there are so many people that when they can’t do that for themselves, they’ll give up.”

He adds getting to testing sites is still difficult due to programs like RTC Access dealing with driver shortages.

Fortunately for Washoe County residents, the health district has a homebound service.

“One of our great nurses goes out and they offer testing. They also provide vaccinations and flu shots,” said Jamie Starrh, call center coordinator at Washoe County Health District.

They define medically homebound as someone who is in need of medical equipment to leave the house, who doesn’t normally leave the house or needs assistance in order to leave.

According to Starrh, there have been over 2,000 vaccines administered through the homebound program and over 1,000 COVID tests.

“This is very important because there are people who need to know if they’re positive because they have caregivers helping them, family members helping them and giving them that peace of mind of knowing that someone can come out and test them. Our test results take about 24 hours,” said Starrh.

The homebound program tests on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Those interested just have to call (775) 525-4601 and provide basic information to verify they qualify.

For those who live outside the county, the nonprofit Nevada Rural Counties RSVP also has services available.

The contact number is: (775) 687-4680.

Tadder says the community can help by calling representatives or contacting the administration, asking for accessible tests for those with disabilities.

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