Posted by on Saturday, 7 January 2012

Guest post: BG monitors for blind/visually impaired people

A few days ago we had a comment on our D-Tracker review from someone called 'Faulty Headlights' who was wrestling not only with diabetes but also with blindness. I can't imagine how hard that would be. As the conversation continued I became increasingly interested in the challenges faced by blind and partially-sighted people, especially in relation to available blood glucose monitors and their usefulness (or otherwise). Julie (Faulty Headlights) kindly agreed to write a guest post sharing her experience of the currently available options. If you have any experiences to share please add a comment below.

Three Blind M.... Monitors???

Living with diabetes can be challenging enough for some people, dealing with injections, blood monitoring, carb counting and so on.

I've lived with diabetes for 21 years now but 5 years ago I lost my sight do to bad control. If I thought it was difficult controlling it then, I was pretty darned puzzled as how I was going to manage not being able to see. I know I have help if I need it but I have always tried to be as independent as possible and didn't want my independence taken away from me just because I had lost my sight.

So not long after I learnt to use a computer I started looking into accessible products for diabetics with visual impairments. Mainly blood meters.

The first monitor I came across was the SensoCard plus (now discontinued), I liked this machine very much. Nice large display with one large tactile button on front and two smaller buttons on side for navigating menus, also. Clear speaking voice for reading results, a slot for easily coding machine and USB port for connecting to PC. Why oh why did they discontinue this one!

I asked around about another and was pointed towards the RNIB who specialise in audio products for the blind and visually impaired. They told me about the Clever Chek machine and there not seeming to be any other option I went for it.

Big mistake! It was awful! I’m sure there are other people using this machine who like it ok but they're probably all over 60 and still using phones like bricks too. Oops sorry, did I just write that?

The Clever Chek machine is bulky and has five buttons on the front, it has a large display and volume control which I guess would be good for people with hearing problems as well as sight. It has many features the same as the SensoCard plus but much much more difficult to use and there is way too much spoken information on start up which just isn’t necessary .If put in a pocket or bag it switches itself on with a merry little tune and tells you and everyone else in the vacinity thank you for using this product followed by date and time. Who ever designed this machine did not have the blind in mind. The strips seem to need more blood and I’ve been given so so many false readings in the past. I’ve compared them against my dad and sisters machines and readings were well off, maybe this is just my machine? I might have got a faulty one but I'll not be asking for another. One good thing about this machine is that it is codeless and... and... um? Nope, I'm struggling to think of anything else!

I was pointed towards the RNIB yet again and now they have a new audible blood monitor. It's called the SuperCheck2. It looks a bit like an mp3 player and has only two buttons. GREAT! It too has volume control, USB port for connecting to PC where you can store results and print for your doctor, large display, memory for up to 500 results and gives you averages over a week month and so on. It has a nice clear voice which reads pretty much everything a sighted person can see on their machine and is also codeless. Brill! On each of the three machines there is a 'dipped' area so you can feel where to insert the strip. The strips have one rounded edge and one flat edge so it's easy to know what end is inserted into the the machine.

What I like about this machine is that you can set alarms to remind you when to test your blood sugar and it doesn't look like a brick.

Technology has come on so so much over the years and it is good to see companies thinking about accessibility. One company I am pleased with is Apple who have made many of their products accessible to blind and visually impaired people with their voiceover.

I was recently told of new blood monitors called the BGStar and the IBGStar which connects straight into an ipod where your results can be displayed and stored. I don’t have a lot of information on these yet but am excited to see how it works and if it will be made accessible with the voiceover on iPod touch and iPhone. Technology really has come a long way, can you remember the old machines from many moons ago? Again, BRICKS!

I have now downloaded and tested 4 different iPod apps designed for diabetics to store their blood readings, exercise plans and carbs and so on. I was disappointed to find out that none of them were completely screen reader or voiceover friendly. Some of the icons were read aloud but others like time and date were not. I think apps like these are a great idea for both sighted and visually impaired diabetics, I mean, how many times have you shown up to your diabetic clinic with out your record book? Many of these apps also allow you to sync it to your computer or to email your results straight to your doctor. Nice one!


UPDATE: See also the Caresens 'Voice' Blood Glucose Monitor for Blind/Visually Impaired people that I saw at the INPUT event in Truro

1 comment:

  1. I have had 3 of the clever chek Ttalking blood glucose meters they all gave up, giving tests that were wrong and a mile off ie 1.7/ 3.4 and 18.9 in under a minute. Please beware of this meter as it may cause you a real problem!!! They malfunction after as little as 3 weeks