Better deal needed for the disabled
Advocate calls for greater improvement in health-care services for visually and hearing impaired
Patrick Lafayette, making an appeal for more research and education in Jamaica to improve the health sector for the visually and hearing impaired.

VETERAN broadcast journalist Patrick Lafayette is calling for more research and education in Jamaica to improve the health sector for the visually and hearing impaired.

Speaking at the Medical Disposables & Supplies Limited Conference 'Mpowered' last Sunday, Lafayette dove deep into the barriers to health care for those navigating the difficult terrain of life due to inaccessibility.

According to Lafayette, it is estimated by World Health Organization that roughly 15 per cent of the Jamaican population has a disability, while internationally the estimate is around 10 per cent.

He said with either estimates the number of people living with disability in Jamaica ranged from 350,000 to 450,000.

The broadcaster, who is blind, argued that many people living with disabilities locally are unable to achieve their full potential because of the barriers to health care for the blind and deaf.

"One of the greatest barriers that exist for the blind and deaf in the health care system is the attitude of health care workers themselves. For example, you may hear a question, 'How come you blind and you pregnant?' Additionally, medication health tables should be properly labelled with clearly defined text and even QR codes in order for blind patients to use smart devices to read the information on dosage and when to take the medicine, its expiration, as well as the ingredients," argued Lafayette.

He said other barriers to accessibility include a "lack of systems in place to communicate with deaf patients", name calling while referring to people as dummies, and health care workers who are unable to communicate using sign language.

Lafayette noted that, with advancements in technology over the years, people who are blind and deaf now have access to more tools and applications which allow them to reach their full potential and live independently in the everyday world.

"The best method of relaying information to a deaf person is by sending a text message to the person's phone... whether by regular texting or through the mobile communications app known as WhatsApp. By [using] this method the pharmacy can communicate back and forth with the patient. Pharmacies can also have the option to label medications in Braille," encouraged Lafayette.

Assisted by his wife, Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, he explained the different apps available and did a live demonstration of how they are used.

"Persons can install mobile applications such as the Be My Eyes, which allows people to identify medication and read important information such as the dosage… read written text and identify objects… the Seeing AI app identifies short text, documents, money, light. I could identify the clothes you're wearing, and read QR codes. Similarly, there is another app called Envision AI which is comparable to Seeing AI.

"There are also portable tools to help the visually and hearing impaired, including the Liquid Level Identifier, Pen Friend, Orcam Reader and Scrip Talk stations in pharmacies," added Lafayette.

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