Pandemic exposes barriers to pharmacy access for people with disabilities

The pandemic has exposed inequalities at pharmacies that make it difficult for the roughly 1 in 4 people in the U.S. who have a disability to access pharmacy services, The New York Times reported Sept. 21. 

Services offered at pharmacies during the pandemic, such as drive-thru COVID-19 testing and pharmacy pickup windows, are not always feasible for people with visual impairment, the Times reported. About 12 million people in the U.S. have serious difficulty seeing, according to U.S. Census Bureau data cited by the Times

Prescription labeling has been a long-standing issue for those with visual impairments and anyone who can't read or understand the small text on most prescription bottles and accompanying pamphlets that list side effects and drug interactions. 

A startup called Accessible Pharmacy Services that delivers prescriptions with labels that convert text to speech launched in May 2020 in Fairless Hills, Pa., the Times reported. The labels are available in braille, large print and audio. 

Workers at Accessible Pharmacy talk to each patient on the phone, coordinate refills and drug interaction questions with patients' physicians and consult resident pharmacists, according to the Times

"We decided to create a company where accessibility and reduction of barriers would be our primary focus with an incredibly welcoming sense of hospitality," Alex Cohen, the company's co-founder, told the Times

The company meets monthly with an advisory committee of blind adults to find new ways to increase accessibility. 

Mr. Cohen told the Times that the pandemic has given pharmacists reasons to rethink their customer services, because many have "overestimated the role technology could play in assuaging" the fears of people with disabilities. 

Read the Times' full article here


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