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Campaign win: Government makes major accessibility improvements to coronavirus home testing

Coronavirus home tests are about to become far more accessible for blind and partially sighted people, after months of campaigning from RNIB and our work with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to make this happen.

From the middle of 2020, around the launch of our World Upside Down campaign we’ve been part of two DHSC user testing studies, examining the accessibility of coronavirus home testing kits with blind and partially sighted people. Now, as a result of our findings, we’re pleased to let you know there’ll be several changes to the test kits making them far more accessible for people with sight loss.

Also, lots of you have also been in touch with us to express your concern or frustration at how difficult it can be to use the tests. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. These changes have been a long time coming and the process still won’t be perfect, but your insight has been invaluable in shaping the changes and convincing DHSC things had to change.

Improvements now in place

People identified that it was difficult to read the instructions that came with the test kits, so now a dedicated page has been set up with a digital version of the home test kit instructions, so screen reader or Zoom Text users have another route to access them.

In the user testing trials, assembling the box to return the home tests to the lab was too difficult, so return packaging has been produced which is easier to assemble.

For months, there was no way to carry out a home test if you didn’t have an email address, entirely cutting off those who are digitally excluded. Now you can order a kit via 119 – there is no need for an email address.

Additionally, RNIB worked with the DHSC to create instructions in the following alternative formats: digital braille, hard copy braille, audio, large print and a recorded audio version of the instructions.

Improvements in progress and coming soon

A new trial is in progress which will investigate further ways to improve the experience for blind and partially sighted people taking the test, with one strand concentrating on people who are digitally excluded. Another will observe people taking the test over video call and trialling live video assistance via the BeMyEyes app.

In the Spring, live video assistance using Be My Eyes app for all users is likely to be introduced. Trained staff will offer video assistance throughout the process to people taking the test via the app.

Taking a test

We've put together some advice if you want to find out what to expect when you order a coronavirus home test.

Next steps

Blind and partially sighted people should always have been able to access a coronavirus test independently. While we’re really happy to have supported the DHSC in this work improving their systems, it’s another way the pandemic has demonstrated just how important it is that accessibility is built into policy from the start.

We will continue to campaign for improved accessibility in projects across government.

Read more about our recommendations to make the coronavirus vaccination programme accessible.