American Council of the Blind
1703 N. Beauregard St. Suite 420
Alexandria, VA 22311
January 31, 2022
Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD
National Institutes of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20892
Dear Acting Director Lawrence Tabak:
As the President of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), we need your help. I write to you on behalf of our members and the blind and low vision community, to urge the National Institutes of Health to develop accessible testing right away.
ACB is deeply concerned for blind and low vision people of the United States, because the current instructions, tests, and results are physically inaccessible to us. While we commend the Administration for the availability of free and readily available at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, unfortunately, due to the way the tests must be administered and the way the results are delivered, blind and visually impaired individuals are unable to use them safely, accurately, and independently putting them at risk for misuse and being unable to verify results. The current rapid-at-home tests indicate results by changing colors, which is extremely difficult if not impossible for blind and visually impaired individuals to read accurately.
ACB has communicated our concerns to the White House in a letter on January 21st, 2022, and we are pleased to learn that the White House has tasked the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop accessible at-home COVID tests and offer our partnership to advance this request. Given the severity of the pandemic and the rapid spread of the Omicron Variant, the alternatives must be quickly developed and available for blind and low vision people.
ACB is a national membership organization comprised of blind, visually impaired, and sighted individuals. The mission of ACB is to improve the quality of life, security, independence, and equality of opportunity for all individuals who are blind and experiencing vision loss in the United States.
- To develop and launch accessible tests. The tests should include an option communicated through tactile or audible indicators such as distinct patterns of raised bumps for positive and negative results or conveyed audibly using similar technology to that used to make prescription drug labels accessible.
- Include ACB and other organizations, along with blind and low vision participants to be part of the development for accessible solutions for usability testing, and result-studies for accessible tests or alternatives.
- Include accessible instructions through alternative formats, including but not limited to braille, large print, audio, or tutorial videos with audio description and closed captioning, to allow users to follow along and use the tests correctly.
- Any accessible options must not solely rely on smartphone broadband-enabled technology. Many people who are blind use and have access to connected technology, however many more do not.
- Quickly implement interim alternatives for at-home testing with access to a mobile program in which providers travel to the home of the individual to administer tests and deliver the results. It is not recommended to use public transportation or rideshare programs while symptomatic increasing the need for in-home care programs.
I request, on behalf of ACB, to discuss this issue with you further. We would like to work with the National Institutes of Health to ensure accessibility for all forms of at-home medical testing.
ACB stands ready to be a partner in planning for the future.
To this end, I look forward to hearing from you by the close of business on Monday, February 7th.
American Council of the Blind
cc: Patrice Allen-Gifford, Director of the Executive Secretariat, National Institutes of Health; Bruce Tromberg, Director, National Institutes on Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health