Virus adds to challenges for deaf, blind, low vision

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Virus adds to challenges for deaf, blind, low vision

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 04:00
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BLUE SPRINGS – Going to the hospital can be stressful, but COVID-19 can add to the problem, based on information from Missouri Assistive Technology, or MAT.

“Consider what you will need to take with you if you go to the hospital and how you will communicate with doctors, nurses and other health care staff,” MAT advised.

The organization offers a guide intended to help people get ready for a hospital visit.

“You may be alone for a long time when you are in the hospital,” MAT information states. “Doctors and nurses in hospitals wear masks and gloves and may talk to you from behind a window or curtain, so it may be harder for you to understand them (particularly for those who use lip-reading).”

MAT’s preparation ideas follow…

FIRST: Put together an emergency bag with needed items. Label the bag and items. Leave space on the label to add a hospital room number. Include:

• A Braille label or bump dot to show ownership;

• Primary assistive technology devices, such as a magnifier, laptop and Notetaker;

• Backup assistive technology, such as slate and stylus, and raised-line paper;

• Free apps, such as Seeing AI to scan and read hospital documents, Be Specular to be aware of surroundings, VRI apps for Relay calls or BARD Mobile for news and reading, and Notes or AudioNote to record and playback health care instructions;

• Plugs and chargers;

• A cellular hotspot in case the hospital does not have Wi-Fi or it is not working well;

• An extension cord or power strip in case the bed is far from the outlet;

• Extra batteries for assistive devices;

• A resealable bag to hold the tablet or smartphone, which allows touchscreen through the plastic;

• A copy, if there is one, of the advance medical directive, if you have one – there is information on AARP’s website; and

• Emergency contact information for family members or friends.

SECOND: Disinfect devices and related items, as they can transmit viruses. A hospital might not let a person bring a device, tablet or cell phone into an ICU or other medical environment. But devices can be effectively disinfected without damage to the device. Every hospital has an infection control officer or specialist. Ask for help, if needed.

THIRD: Document the need for assistive technology. Upon arrival, the hospital staff or emergency room medical team needs to know communication requirements. A printed page about being blind, low vision or deaf-blind to explain why hospital staff needs to communicate differently.

FOURTH: Wear gloves and require interpreter to wear gloves when doing Tactile Sign or Print on Palm. If the hospital staff refuses, ask for an “ethics consultation.”

FIFTH: If a service animal is essential and, speak with the hospital about allowing use of the animal.

“If you are admitted you (may) be alone and not have anyone with you who understands your communication needs. Preparing now is important,” MAT information states.

MAT staff members are available to answer questions. They can be reached by phone at 816-655-6700, by TTY at 816-647-8558 or email at