This blind man has been fighting for years to get ‘talking prescriptions’ at his local pharmacy


Dean Steacy has been fighting for 5 years to get his local Rexall drugstore to undertake “speaking prescription label” expertise.

The Gatineau, Que., man has been blind for 17 years, takes insulin and up to 10 drugs every day for diabetes and associated circumstances. 

He generally has to depend on others to assist him handle his drugs. The lack of independence “sort of takes away a part of your dignity,” he informed Go Public.

And, as a result of he cannot see his prescriptions, he is all the time at danger of taking an excessive amount of, too little, and even the improper drugs. An insulin mistake, Steacy says, can have grave penalties.

“If I take an excessive amount of of that, or not sufficient of it, I can go into diabetic shock or hypoglycemia.”

He says it is also a wrestle to be sure that he will get and might reorder the appropriate medicine. 

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That’s the place ScripTalk is available in; a expertise that makes use of a radio frequency chip hooked up to the underside of a prescription bottle. It has the identical data as a prescription label, together with dosage, directions, warnings and the variety of refills, which could be learn aloud by a reader or smartphone.

It has been accessible in Canada since 2010.

Steacy has been lobbying Rexall to undertake the expertise since 2017. 

WATCH | How ScripTalk works: 

Dean Steacy, who’s blind, demonstrates the ‘speaking prescription’ expertise that delivers personalised drug prescription data in audio format.

Though he was repeatedly assured the chain was contemplating his request, Rexall did not make any progress for 5 years. By June, Rexall had knowledgeable ScripTalk it might not be adopting its expertise in spite of everything, which Steacy heard about by means of his involvement in an advocacy group for folks with sight loss. 

After Go Public obtained concerned, Rexall modified its place, saying in an announcement its dealing with of Steacy’s request “fell brief” of its requirements and vowing to renew its efforts. 

“We are presently working with Mr. Steacy to implement an answer. Rexall is reviewing the usage of this expertise on a case by case foundation,” the corporate stated. 

A ScripTalk reader is seen with an assortment of prescription bottles and the box it is sold in.
ScripTalk makes use of radio frequency chips to learn prescription data aloud by means of a reader or smartphone. (En-Vision America)

Separately, in late August, the chain promised Steacy that his local Rexall — on Laurier Avenue West in Ottawa — could be accommodating his request for ScripTalk.

Twelve weeks later, he’s nonetheless ready. Rexall didn’t reply to additional questions from Go Public in regards to the delay. 

Disability rights knowledgeable and lawyer David Lepofsky is pissed off by the scenario. 

“I’m appalled, however not shocked that it takes the media to focus the highlight earlier than anyone decides that this follow wants to be fastened.”

Steacy’s battle has been waged elsewhere in Canada. 

In 2014, the B.C. advocacy group Access for Sight Impaired Consumers (ASIC) filed a human rights grievance in opposition to Shoppers Drug Mart and Walmart.

A man with thinning grey hair, in a polo shirt, stands in front of wooden kitchen cabinets.
Rob Sleath is the chairman of Access for Sight Impaired Consumers, which filed a human rights grievance in opposition to Shopper’s Drug Mart in B.C. (CBC)

The group accused the pharmacy chains of shelling out prescription medicine in a non-accessible format, as a result of they had been utilizing printed labels solely.

Rob Sleath, the group’s chair, is a kidney transplant recipient and blind. The subject was private for him; he was taking greater than a dozen drugs and was struggling to preserve all of them straight.

He headed ASIC’s grievance, which settled in 2016 with a compromise.

WATCH | Dean Steacy desires to handle his personal drugs: 

Audio prescription labels not accessible to all who want them

A brand new expertise is making medicine safer for sufferers who’ve bother studying the small print on their prescription labels, however not all pharmacies are providing it to clients who say they need it and want it.

Shoppers Drug Mart agreed to supply speaking prescriptions through a “central fill” system which suggests, as an alternative of the drugs being ready on demand at the local pharmacy, they’re stuffed off web site with the speaking prescription expertise. That can take up to two enterprise days. Then they are often picked up or delivered.

Because of that delay, Sleath considers the settlement solely a “partial victory” — and nonetheless discriminatory.

“If you have got some kind of an an infection otherwise you’re in ache and also you want the prescription immediately, it is not likely inclusive. It’s not equitable,” he stated. 

A man wearing a white button-up shirt with a black patterned cardigan sweater looks directly at the camera.
Lawyer David Lepofsky says he is ‘appalled, however not shocked’ by Steacy’s struggles with Rexall. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Following ASIC’s grievance, Walmart additionally made ScripTalk accessible on a “central fill” foundation in its B.C. pharmacies.

It’s not clear how a lot it prices to implement ScripTalk expertise. The firm says that is proprietary data and will not reveal what pharmacies pay. 

But Lepofsky says there is not any excuse for main chains not to supply speaking prescriptions — on demand, at the counter, in each pharmacy location.

He paints an image with the scenario reversed: “If the pharmacist handed you a bottle with a label in braille, you’d say, ‘I am unable to learn this. How many drugs do I take? What can I combine it with?'”

In Lepofsky’s opinion, not offering well timed and accessible labels is a “obtrusive violation of human rights codes” throughout Canada. 

As the battle for wider accessibility continues, the 1.5 million Canadians — who, in accordance to the CNIB, expertise sight loss — now face a patchwork of pharmacies providing totally different entry to speaking prescriptions. 

Click right here to search by postal code for pharmacies that supply ScripTalk.

Steacy, in the meantime, is clear in his conviction that speaking prescriptions ought to be accessible for those that want them, every time and wherever they want them.

“To me, it is a proper of entry. It’s a proper to have independence. It’s a proper to have safety that everyone else will get. Why ought to I be omitted?”

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