During the past twelve months I have spent a lot of time visiting and supporting my wife in two different hospitals. I have become keenly aware of how these places often lack accessibility which would make the experience easier and more inclusive for both patients as well as their visitors. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the medical professionals who have done so much to assist and support my wife. The following list is in no way meant as a criticism of the doctors, nurses, surgeons, respiratory therapists and other specialists who have provided support to us. These people should be honored and respected as much as our military and its veterans. Indeed, some of the people I have met in the medical field are true warriors and war heroes and I am in awe of them and what they do. They see death on a regular basis. Many of them are called to save lives. Sometimes they do save those lives. Other times they are unable to do so. I cannot imagine the effect on them of this amazing and necessary work. That being said I’ve had some ideas of how hospitals could be so much more inclusive. These ideas would not require technology that we don’t already have. Some would require a financial investment but they wouldn’t require new technologies to be designed. While I don’t have time right now to work on this I’d like to help engage in advocacy at a later and more convenient time to see if we can turn some of these ideas into reality.
1. Have either Velcro or a magnetic dock on the call bell/TV remote. This would allow the patient to be able to place the item in a reachable spot without constantly losing it or having it fall off of the bed out of the patient’s reach.
2. Place Braille labels and/or raised icons on the other buttons on the call bell/TV remote. They might have a Braille N for Nurse but no other buttons are Brailled. Do they think blind people have no interest in watching TV?
3. Braille signage on all doors.
4. Ensure that all elevators contain Braille on all buttons and have audio alerts to indicate what floor has been reached.
5. An optional TV voice remote for patients who can speak just as you have with Comcast, Fire TV, Roku, etc.
6. Allow the patient to send text messages to the nurse’s station. This way, a patient who can’t speak could text “I need help being repositioned” or “my Purewick came loose.” This way, the nurse who comes in to help the patient already knows the reason for the call. Someone who can’t speak doesn’t have to find a way to communicate with the nurse and the nurse doesn’t need to ask what the problem is, saving a lot of time and effort.
7. Indoor beacons to allow blind visitors to easily locate and identify a room using an app on their phone, such as Goodmaps.
8. An Alexa in every room. It could include special hospital content containing health information as they do on the TV. It could be trained to recognize specialized commands, such as “call the nurse” or “what’s my heart rate” not to mention just being able to listen to a full catalog of music and radio streams.
9. Talking telemetry. Patient should be able to press a button on the remote to access heart rate, latest blood pressure, etc.
10. Required disability awareness training for all hospital staff. You would think that the medical community is the most knowledgeable regarding how to interact with people with disabilities but I have found them to be in serious need of training, such as how to navigate “sighted guide” with a blind person.
Hello David: I read your recent blog post to a friend of mine with a disability who is currently at a hospital. He agrees with your recommendations: particularly items 1, 6 and 8. He requested that I share via this comment his own observation.
11. All patient rooms should include a speaker-phone. The hospital my friend is presently in, and all hospitals which he has been in previously, have not include a speaker-phone in patient rooms. If my friend had not taken his own speaker-phone from home, he would not have been able to make any telephone calls at all.
I agree with all the suggestions for accessibility for patients. At a more basic level, staff should announce themselves when they come into a room and why they are there, not just nurses and docs, but also the person who brings the food tray, the housekeeper who comes to empty the trash. HR should develop a training video which addresses cross disabilities and how to interact with such disabilities. This should be done with input from pwd. All new hires and all personnel should have to watch this video once a year as a condition of employment.