AUSTIN (KXAN) — With Travis County listed at a medium COVID-19 community risk level, Austin health officials are encouraging people who might have been exposed or are symptomatic to get tested.
But one KXAN viewer came to us with this question: What resources are available for people who are blind or have visual impairments and can’t drive to a drive-thru testing site, or administer an at-home test?
In late June, the White House announced expanded testing options for people who are blind or have limited vision, collaborating with the COVID-19 test manufacturer Ellume on their at-home antigen tests. Ellume connects its tests with a smartphone app to provide audible, step-by-step instructions and test results, per a July company news release.
Similar to other free COVID-19 tests offered by the federal government, people in need of more accessible tests can access 12 free Ellume tests by calling 1-800-232-0233.
“Ellume is incredibly proud to help make at-home COVID testing more accessible. For too long, Americans who are blind or have low vision have struggled to take advantage of this vital tool in the pandemic,” Ellume’s founder and CEO Dr. Sean Parsons said in the release.
How the at-home test works
Patients first download the free Ellume COVID-19 home test app onto a smartphone. Users are also asked to have a smartphone screen reader to help read testing results, once a sample has been taken.
The app uses audio step-by-step instructions to guide users through collecting a sample. The test, connected to a smartphone courtesy Bluetooth, then generates a written digital result on a user’s phone, which can be read by a screen reader.
From there, a patient can use the app to share any results with healthcare providers, family or employers, if needed.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Disability Information and Access Line assists people with disabilities who are in need of getting vaccinated or tested. DIAL specializes in the following areas:
- Finding local vaccination sites
- Assisting with booking vaccine appointments
- Aiding in accessing free at-home tests; DIAL can also help walk callers through instructions for administering the tests
- Connecting patients to local services, like transportation options, to access testing and vaccinations
People can call DIAL at 1-888-677-1199. The access line is operational from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
Locally, Austin Public Health officials said anyone in need of testing accommodations can request at-home testing by calling the APH Health Equity Line at 512-972-5560. Residents can also call 3-1-1 and request they be put in touch with the health equity hotline.