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Vaccination A Struggle For Visually Impaired

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Visually impaired people are having a hard time getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine has been difficult for many in Florida. But the visually impaired have several additional hurdles that sighted people don’t.

Maggie Saldana of Naples is legally blind. She calls the process to get a vaccine appointment online “long and hopeless.”

“Because I am legally blind, the computer is not my friend,” Saldana said.

Saldana said that the Publix website is not compatible with the screen reader she uses to make websites accessible.

Like many people, she recruited family members to help.

“Five family members in various parts of the world have been trying,” she said.

So far, none of them has had any luck.

Dotty St. Amand is the CEO of Lighthouse of Southwest Florida, an organization that assists people with visual impairment. She says that getting vaccinated is of great concern.

“Our social workers and our program staff, our instructors, are meeting virtually with our clients and we address this topic on a regular basis, in terms of how well they are accessing the registration sites to be able to get an appointment for the vaccination as well as navigating the system, in terms of, how do they get there?,” St. Amand said.

She went on to say that some clients have been successful in navigating the sites to make appointments. LeeTran Passport buses have provided transportation and shepherded Lighthouse clients through the process at the vaccination sites.

The state announced last week that it will start bringing vaccines to the homebound, a program that could also help the visually impaired.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management did not respond to a request about whether they would offer this service to the visually impaired, and when vaccines for the homebound might make it to Southwest Florida.

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