'Game changer' pregnancy test for women with sight loss

·3-min read

Reading a pregnancy test for yourself is a luxury denied to thousands of blind and partially sighted women.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has now commissioned a pioneering prototype to confront manufacturers about their perceived inaccessibility of all current tests on the market.

The larger, tactile design has been deemed a "game changer" for all women.

It's an issue mother Danielle Cleary has confronted many times.

Being blind has meant that every time she has taken a pregnancy test, she has always had to hear the result from someone else. It has never been a secret she could have for herself.

Ms Cleary told Sky News she has had her results read by her mum, friends and once even a neighbour.

"It's very intrusive, it's very embarrassing to have to present someone with something you've just peed on and ask 'can you read this for me?'

"And whether you're trying or you're not trying to have a baby, you then just know that person is thinking 'oh, she's doing that' - and I don't want everyone to know everything about me and my life. I don't think you realise until your autonomy is taken away, what a luxury it is."

All pregnancy tests available on the market provide visual results, either with displaying text or lines on an electronic screen.

The largest sight loss charity in the UK, the RNIB, called upon designers to reimagine the test. Their campaign, named Design For Everyone, aims to break down barriers. They say no one should have to sacrifice their privacy because of inaccessible design.

The task landed with independent designer Josh Wasserman. After undergoing methodical research hearing from blind and partially sighted women, he created a successful prototype.

When the test is used, tactile bumps appear on the underside of the device. If the result is positive, another set of silicone bumps appear on the top.

By creating a physical response to deliver the test result, the experience of using the product is universal for both able-bodied people, and those who live with little or no vision.

Mr Wasserman says it proves the power of design.

"It's really important to understand how design can be used to raise awareness of an issue and demonstrate what is possible to create positive change within an industry," he told Sky News.

But he makes clear that if the idea is taken on by a manufacturer it could be a while before the prototype becomes a product on shelves.

"Industries, particularly the consumer healthcare industry can be slow moving so we might not necessarily see this product on shelves for a number of years but our research demonstrates what can be done and to empower others to also pick up a pen and pencil and start designing products for themselves," he said.

The device was developed to address not only blind women's difficulty in reading tests, but the apparent lack of privacy afforded to them when they take one.

Ms Cleary describes the product as being a "game changer" for women like her. She hopes it will inspire others to take note of the issue.

"I don't want anyone to feel bad that they hadn't heard of the issue before, I just want them to work with the visually impaired community and help us to get the privacy that we've been denied up until now."

There are an estimated two million people in the UK with sight loss.

Like Ms Cleary, the RNIB hopes the prototype will spur companies to act. The charity has told Sky News it is in talks with ClearBlue, one of the biggest pregnancy tests suppliers, to introduce more accessible models.