It can be confusing to organize medication bottles with low vision and blindness. Often times, bottles and pills all look and feel the same, with information printed in very small font that can be difficult to read. And with medication names being difficult to spell and pronounce, people with vision impairments may have trouble running web searches for more information on their medication. Luckily, there are several different services and technologies available to solve these problems. Here are ten ways to make medication bottles accessible and easy to read for people with vision impairments.
Bump dots are small tactile dots that come in a variety of sizes, textures, and colors. They can be attached to any surface, including on top of medication containers. I like to use the smallest size dots, which are about 1/4 of an inch wide, and put them on the lids of containers- read more about it in my post about my college desk here. Order Bump Dots on Amazon here.
Got Braille? Braille stickers can be attached to prescription medication labels in order to distinguish medication names and dosages. Many mail order pharmacies also offer Braille labels for medication including Humana, CVS/Caremark, and Rite Aid pharmacies. Braille labels can be requested by calling the respective pharmacy and requesting labels, and Braille alphabet stickers can be purchased on Amazon here.
Large print labels
Not everyone with a vision impairment reads Braille, so many pharmacies also offer large print labels for medication. I have requested and received large print labels and dosage instructions from CVS, Giant, and Walgreens, though many other pharmacies offer this service as well. I requested large print labels when I first dropped off my prescription, and the pharmacist made a note in my file for future prescriptions. Alternatively, large print labels can be printed off from a label maker and attached to the medication bottle.
While I have never used one of these, one of my friends who dislikes high-tech assistive technology loves the Talking Rx for identifying medication. They aren’t alone either, as many vision impairment bloggers seem to really love this thing. Doctors or caregivers record instructions about the medication, and the Talking Rx sits on the bottom of the bottle. The device is very easy to use, but I would not recommend using it for several bottles, as it can get expensive- each device costs about $25. Get the Talking Rx on Amazon here.
Audio labeling device
There are several audio labeling devices on the market, including the PenFriend, Talking Label Wand, and similar. These devices allow for a user to attach a sticker to any device and record a custom message that will play when the device touches the sticker. Pharmacists are able to record this information when requested and can go over additional instructions as well in these recordings. I would not buy this device specifically to read prescription information, but if someone already uses the device, then it can easily be used for this purpose.
The ScripTalk Station is a device the size of a smoke detector that reads prescription information when a device is placed on top of the reader. When I tried out this device at the Abilities Expo conference, I found that it took less than a minute to have information read to me in a loud and clear voice- read more about attending conferences with vision impairment here. Many pharmacies have now started using ScripTalk labels including Express Scripts, Aetna, Rite Aid, Walmart, Humana, CVS, and many more- read the full list on the company website here. Labels can be added to bottles free of charge by request at your local pharmacy or by calling the mail order pharmacy. The ScripTalk Station is available free of charge from many pharmacies, and is also available at Veteran’s Affairs hospitals around the country. Speaking of the VA, read more about government assistive technology resources here.
iOS and Android apps
Google Assistant Camera
Google Assistant’s camera feature is part of the Google Assistant app that is built into most Android phones. The app can read short text, scan barcodes and QR codes, and display other information as well. I like using this app for over the counter medications as it helps me to figure out the strength of medication, and allows me to read information directly from a product webpage in large print, or with a screen reader. It’s as easy as pointing my phone camera at a bottle. Read my full review of the Google Assistant app here.
Mircosoft Seeing AI
Like the Google Assistant app, Microsoft’s Seeing AI app can read short text and barcodes as well. What I like about it though is that it can also identify colors, which can help for double checking to make sure you have the correct pill. I also tested the scene description feature, which correctly identified the number of pills in my hand, which I thought was pretty cool. Currently, this app is only available on iOS devices. Read my full review of Seeing AI here.
For people who don’t want to use the ScripTalk Station device, there is also an app available called ScripTalk Mobile that uses the same labels as the ScripTalk Station. Instead of resting the bottles on a device, users can scan the label using their phone app by placing the bottle on top of their phone camera. From there, the app will pull up information that can be read in large print or by a screen reader. I tried this out at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference and was very impressed with how fast and easy it is to use. The app is currently available for Android only but will be made available very soon for iOS devices with iOS 11. Download the ScripTalk mobile app for Android on Google Play here.
Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes is a free volunteer based app that allows people with blindness and low vision to get help with everyday tasks. While I am a bit apprehensive to ask Be My Eyes to read medication information, since the volunteers receive no background checks, I remember how much the app helped me when I was putting tactile labels on bottles and needed to confirm medication names. Be My Eyes also helped me when I had spilled a bottle of Aleve all over the floor and needed help trying to figure out if I had cleaned up all of the pills- moral of the story, open medication bottles over top of a container so if things spill everywhere, it is easier to clean up. Download Be My Eyes for iOS on the App Store here and for Android on Google Play here. And to read more about how Be My Eyes can help with technology problems, read my post about Be My Eyes and Microsoft here.
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to assistive technology, and some people may prefer to use several methods in order to identify their medication, such as using both tactile and audio labels. With these tips, it will be easy to keep medication safe and make instructions easy to read for people with vision impairments.