BLIND COVID- Registering for the COVID vaccine
Welcome to the Blind COVID podcast. Blind COVID’s mission is to empower blind and low vision people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Blind COVID aims to do this through increasing awareness of accessible resources, providing strategies, and sharing your stories and personal experiences for blind and low vision Washingtonians. I’m your host, Corey Grandstaff. And on today’s episode, I’m really excited to share with you an interview that I was able to have with someone that has been dealing with some challenges, as they’ve been booking their vaccines. As vaccines have become more available obviously, we’ve all heard in the news regarding folks not being able to get vaccinated, difficulty in finding vaccination sites et cetera, et cetera. And there are some challenges that we learned about both in our focus groups and through this interview that we’re going to hear today regarding the difficulties that people who are blind and low vision have been facing. Before we hear from our guests, I would like to give you a couple updates regarding our project.
So as I stated in our last podcast, we have launched the COVID access line. Where we cannot provide your medical advice, but we can for answer any related accessibility questions you may have regarding COVID-19. Whether that’s helping you find an accessible testing site or an accessible vaccination site or so forth and so on. And that phone number is 360-947-3330. Again, that’s 360-947-3330. We have also launched our website blindcovid.com. Again, that’s B-L-I-N-D C-O-V-I-D.com blindcovid.com so go check that out. And we’ve also been working on a video regarding social distancing strategies. We learned from our focus groups that social distancing is an issue that people do not feel prepared to tackle. I actually want to share with you a quote that we learned in our focus groups that we conducted. And I’m going to read that quote for you. Someone actually shared this with us.
The person reported in the following quote, “People are choosing to withdraw from public because of their fear towards a stressful interaction, where you might do the wrong thing or touch the wrong thing, or stand in the wrong place, it’s so frustrating.” And so we actually use this information to help us, realize that we needed to develop a video on social distancing strategies. And so I hope when that video comes out, we’ll let you know. And that you check that video out and utilize some of those strategies or suggest some additional strategies that we can discuss. And later in one of our later episodes, we will actually hear from someone who has developed some pretty effective strategies for social distancing. The reason we’re kind of jumping ahead to vaccine challenges, is that’s kind of the big thing right now is getting vaccinated. And we’re learning in Washington, there are a lot of folks, especially in that over 65 range that are having difficulty getting access to the vaccine.
And as I stated earlier, I was able to conduct an interview with one of those individuals who they are blind, their spouse is blind. And so it’s not just getting access to the vaccine. It’s also getting there and dealing with that challenge. So I’m going to introduce Deb Cook. And today Deb is going to walk us through her experience booking in a vaccine and accessing it. Deb, so thank you for joining us today. We’re here talking about your experience, getting the vaccine and the experience leading up to that. So can you kind of talk to us about what your experience is like registering for your vaccine, especially when it comes to the accessibility of those systems used?
Sure. Well, I live in a small town. I live in Clarkston and it was at first, not very clear where to go to actually register for the vaccine. I went to the state health department website that talks about all of that. And the only place they mentioned on there was Tri-State hospital. And I went to Tri-State hospital and I found a vaccine hotline to call. So that was really accessible. You could, if you could find the number, you could call it up and they put us on a waiting list. So they don’t schedule the appointment till they actually verify that they have the vaccine and that they get to you on the list.
They told me it would be about 30 days out. So I registered at the hospital. In the meantime, my sister, who does not have a disability, was trying to get the vaccine. She qualifies as a person who lives in a multi-generational household. So she was going online to every place here that might possibly provide the vaccine. And she found that Albertson’s grocery store was going to be providing it. This was on a Sunday and they said they would be making appointments for the following Thursday. They said, you could only make them online. And she got this… I don’t know whether she got this from their website or the paper, but they could only make them online. It was not easy to find where to go online to make them, but enough Google searching and just following your nose. I did locate the form for registering for the shot.
Now, for the most part, the shot was… the form was accessible, but it’s kind of like one of those deals where it might be 99% good, but if the 1% matters you’re done. And in this case, that was sort of what was happening to me. So I was able to verify to the site’s satisfaction that I qualified. And I was able to enter my personal information about my birthday, to my name and my email address and my phone number. And then I was taken, after they sort of verified everything out, I was taken to an appointment calendar. And the appointment calendar itself looked pretty accessible. I determined that there were still slots available on Thursday. And so I was able to select Thursday from the days, select a day field. And then when it got to be time to select a time, I could see that the first available time on Thursday was going to be 3:30 and I could not select it. And I could not select it no matter what I did.
I tried with the mouse cursor of my screen reader. I tried by pressing enter. I tried by turning off the screen readers accessibility features and tabbing into it. Sometimes you can just tab into the right place and press enter, but the tab key took me right over the top of it because the screen reader, nor the website saw this as a keyboard accessible alternative at all. So I do subscribe to Aira. And so I got Aira on the horn and used team viewer on my PC for Aira to verify for me that yes, in fact, the time selection was not keyboard accessible in any way, shape or form. Once someone actually clicked on it with a mouse for me, I was able to complete the rest of the form, but had I not had a way to have someone click that with a mouse that would have… I would not have been able to register at Albertsons. And I would have been still waiting several more weeks for a Tri-State to get around to me.
So basically the issue for me about that was I’m really thankful that I have Aira and I subscribed to it, but it’s a fee by the minute service. So I had to pay for several minutes to get this all done and I’m glad I did. And I’m glad I could, but people shouldn’t have to pay to schedule to get a shot. So anyway, I did get the shot and they did send me email, verifying my appointment. And coincidentally at 3:30 on Thursday, it fortunately was still there, even though it was taking me a while to get it signed up. So, I had that scheduled and they then sent me to a page with forms to complete, the consent form for the shot, which you have to fill out each time.
Well, the form was actually theoretically, a fillable form. So what should have been able to happen is I should have been able to complete the form online. And then either save it or print it. Or I should’ve been able to download it, which I could do, and then open it in Adobe Acrobat and complete it. Because it did have editable fields, but the fields did not line up well with the tags. And sometimes I was not sure what I was checking and the tab order on the form was quite goofy. So I was being taken hither and thither, and was not actually able to complete the form. So another call to Aira, for Aira to complete the form and do all that. And then also I needed assistance figuring out where to sign the form. So it would have been nice if I could have electronically signed the form.
So we went through all of this and we had to go through it twice because my husband’s blind also. So I already knew the drill. So it’s like, you need to get Aira to help you register. And then you need to get Aira to help you complete the form. And so at least we were a little more efficient with his. When we went to the site, things were really pretty good there. They did sign us up for the second appointment. So we don’t have to go through signing up for the second appointment. We will have to fill out the consent form again. I was smart and I saved it and I can just open it with Aira and we can change the date and then I can resign it, because it’s going to be the same form again. So I was smart that way.
So that will not be too bad. The location is in the store, inside the Albertson store. The pharmacy is in the store. This is not our pharmacy so we were not familiar with where the pharmacy was, but it was not too difficult to find. And they were very gracious and they had a little bit of additional paperwork in the store and they very happily filled it out for us with no question and took care of all of that. And I thought that it was all fine really. Once we got to the store, the pharmacy is fairly near the entrance actually in that store. And so it really was pretty easy to find, and they had enough staff there. So I think the in-store experience was fine, but I think everything leading up to it was hard.
Yeah. Thank you so much. We’ve actually been hearing a lot of the same thing regarding the forms, the consent forms and the time slot. So, but we really appreciate you sharing this information and for telling your story today.
So that was one person’s experience, one blind person’s experience booking their vaccine going and getting it. That person was from Washington. Deb, thank you for coming on today. And we will actually hear from someone else from outside of the state of Washington on our next podcast, regarding how their experience, their vaccine experience went. The experiences that Deb described are similar to the ones that I had as I went to get each of my vaccinations. What I will say is at least if you’re using that Safeway Albertsons website, as Deb alluded to in her interview. The place where you have to select your time and fill in your birth date for that vaccine is inaccessible. I will also say that not all of the vaccine locations are available on that Department of Health website.
So really it’s just about going in finding an appointment, trying to get one, but you’re really going to have to scurry around different places in order to get one. So on our next podcast, we will hear from another person as I just alluded to who had a similar vaccine experiences and we will also cover other topics like social distancing and such. Again, please check out our website blindcovid.com. Also do not forget that you can contact the Blind COVID access line. If you’re having any access issues related to COVID at 360-947-3330. Till the next time, stay safe, wear your mask, wash your hands and maintain your six feet of distance.