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Government outlines new commitments to Coronavirus test accessibility

We are pleased that Care Minister Helen Whately has committed to four new steps to improve the accessibility of coronavirus rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests.

We know many blind and partially sighted people have struggled with these tests since they were introduced. Since May 2020, we have been working with NHS Track and Trace to improve the accessibility of coronavirus testing. We have won positive changes to the accessibility of PCR tests, such as the provision of instructions in alternative formats and the option of live video assistance. However, accessibility of LFD tests has lagged behind.

Our Chief Executive Matt Stringer recently wrote to Helen Whately to press for improvements in the accessibility of the LFD tests. This had been promised back in March of this year.

In response the Minister acknowledged the need for people with sight loss to access rapid LFD tests. She explained that a Delivery Manager will soon be appointed to begin work on four areas for improvement to the LFD tests, to be delivered within the next three to four weeks.

These include the production of information and instructions in alternative formats, and a print on demand service so that all material is available in physical versions, large print, audio, braille, Easy Read and other preferred formats.

Reminders will also be made clear throughout the service journey that telephoning 119 is an option for people to receive support with their access needs and to enable tests to be ordered without access to the internet.

Additionally, the Government will be exploring the provision of live video assistance to support blind and partially sighted people to take LFD tests independently at home.

We would have liked to see these changes made sooner, but we are very glad to see these new commitments. Our Policy and Campaigns Officer, Mike Wordingham, spoke briefly on coronavirus test accessibility on this week’s BBC Radio 4 In Touch. You can listen to this on their website.

All of the public health interventions we have seen since coronavirus emerged have shown that something fundamental needs to change. Accessibility must be built in from the very beginning of government policy and processes.

Policy and Campaigns Officer, Mike Wordingham