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Patient Accessibility

Accessibility for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Have a Print Disability
The Iowa Pharmacy Association (IPA) supports patient access to medications and pharmacist-provided services as essential elements of health care. IPA recognizes the need for identification and accessibility of resources to combat health disparities and improve health equity. This resource seeks to increase awareness of best practices for pharmacists to ensure accessible prescription drug labels and other resources for individuals who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise have a print disability.


  • At least 253 million people around the world have a visual impairment, as well as 1 billion people who have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed.1
  • Persons with vision impairment are more likely to experience inequality, poorer health, and barriers to education and employment.1


  • Over 7 million Americans are blind or visually impaired and may have trouble reading the labels on prescription drug containers.2
  • 90% of vision impairment is acquired, of which, the most common include chronic diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts.3  
  • In the U.S., fewer than 10% of persons with visual impairment can read Braille.4 
  • Older adults who are blind or visually impaired are more likely to report their health as “poor” compared to people without sensory problems.5 
  • Most patients who are blind or visually impaired indicate that drug identification is the most challenging.6 
  • Unfortunately, there is a lack of data available that highlights interventions to enhance pharmaceutical care for people with sensory loss.5


  • Persons with visual impairment are at a high risk of taking the wrong medication, wrong dose, or not completing the full regimen.3 
  • The U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO)’s 2016 report, "Prescription Drug Labels: Actions Needed to Increase Awareness of Best Practices for Accessible Labels for Individuals Who are Blind or Visually Impaired," recommends the following labels be used by community pharmacies:
  • The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) recommends:6 
    • Ensure patients who have a vision impairment know options exist to assist them with their medications;
    • If available, offer braille or large-print labels on medication containers;
    • Digital recorders attached to a medication bottle can provide a voice recording of the medication inside;
    • Consider leaving medications in the original containers to allow patients to recognize the medication by the container’s shape and size;
    • Consider marking medication bottles with rubber bands as a tactile method for identifying medication; 
    • Consider providing a list of resources for patients who are blind or visually impaired, such as community service organizations and contractors that provide Braille translation. 
  • When counseling patients who are blind or visually impaired on their medications, consider providing more detailed counseling, using Braille, or using touchable marks (e.g., rubber bands or stickers) on the medication bottles. Additionally, these patients prefer that the counseling is directed toward them instead of accompanying family members or caretakers.
  • Be My Eyes is a free app for mobile devices that connects people who are blind or visually impaired with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through a live video call. Consider registering as a volunteer to help someone in need. 
  • If your patient who is blind or visually impaired does not yet have a white cane to aid them when moving around, the National Federation of the Blind provides free white canes. Consider helping your patient order one here.
  • For support organizations:
    • Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (
    • Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (
    • Council for Exceptional Children (
    • American Foundation for the Blind (


  1. Lee BH, Lee YJ. Evaluation of medication use and pharmacy services for visually impaired persons: perspectives from both visually impaired and community pharmacists. Disabil Health J 2019;12:79-86.
  2. United Nations. Braille Day Background. Accessed December 30, 2021. Available at
  3. Mutuku T. World Braille Day 4 January 2021. Last updated October 2, 2020. Accessed December 30, 2021. Available at
  4. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Difference between an ophthalmologist, optometrist, and optician. Last updated February 26, 2019. Accessed December 30, 2021. Available at
  5. Worth T. Counseling patients who are blind or visually impaired. Pharmacy Today 2014; 20(3):26. Available at
  6. Be My Eyes. Accessed December 30, 2021. Available at