RNIB develops world's first pregnancy test for people with sight loss

RNIB develops world's first pregnancy test for people with sight loss

Danielle and her partner are both blind so when they were trying for a baby, they were never the first to find out the result of any pregnancy test they took.

All pregnancy tests currently on the market give a result visually, either with a colour change or words on a screen.

It means that blind and partially sighted people don’t have privacy if they think they might be pregnant. Their private information has to be made public.

To help, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has developed the world’s first accessible pregnancy test, letting blind and partially sighted people feel the result.

They interviewed women, like Danielle, with varying degrees of sight loss about their needs and some of them said that taking a pregnancy test was a difficult experience for them.

Some had to ask neighbours to read the result and some said that people who read the result to them had made negative comments at the same time.

Danielle, 36, from Croydon, has Retinopathy of Prematurity, a condition that occurs when the retinal blood vessels aren’t able to fully develop before birth

She explains: ‘You have no way of reading [pregnancy tests] yourself if you can’t see, it’s that simple. I was so embarrassed that I was asking a pretty much stranger to help me with something that I considered to be so intimate.

‘You can’t do it independently, so when you do a pregnancy test and it comes back negative then you’re having to let somebody else have that information before you have it, to tell you. And then nine times out of ten you’ve got someone else’s opinion to deal with. And actually it’s no one else’s business.’

The RNIB prototype uses existing pregnancy test technology, but instead of the result activating a screen with written or visual information, it uses a bold, colour contrasted tactile reader, giving an easily understood result for those with and without sight loss.

If there are significant levels of HCG (the hormone which is tested for to know if someone is pregnant), the device can scan the result and trigger a motor, which moves the tactile bumps into place and the person can feel if it is positive. A negative result will not trigger the test.

The prototype, which took two years to create, is part of a new RNIB campaign, Design for Everyone, to raise awareness of the emotional impact of inaccessible design.

The campaign will also look at other items which mean blind and partially sighted people have to give up some of their privacy because things are not accessibile.

Research from the charity shows that nearly half of blind and partially sighted people admit needing support to read written information, which could include anything from a doctor’s letter or a loan application.

Nearly a third of those surveyed (28%) said that information from banks is never accessible, while two in five said that information from health providers isn’t either.

Although not currently in production, the RNIB campaign has made the designs for the prototype pregnancy test public and hopes it will show businesses how it is possible to put accessibility first.

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