Aiming at freedom from a barrier for medical and medicinal information
At midnight power failure visits you and you suddenly suffer from acute stomachache in the darkness. Can you take a medicine for stomach and bowels as prescribed in such darkness? Indeed you may store in a certain drawer or box a first-aid kit containing a flashlight, a radio and drugs, but you must be panic and bewildered.

Awaiting a medicine to be prescribed in a certain hospital where I went as a patient, I met with a visually-impaired patient listening to a pharmacist's explanation of prescription ,"Take this white tabletcccc"
I was puzzled "?????", wondering how that patient can know the color is white. As a matter of fact, those who rarely come in contact with blind and visually-impaired people in day-to-day tasks see much difficulty to exchange communication with them. This incident led me to tackling an activity to write in Braille medical and medicinal information, my mastering a Braille-writing at a corresponding course of education which I happened to see in a newspaper.

Nowadays, embossed books are mostly written by Braille-writing software in personal computers and output by Braille-printers. This has enabled us to write in Braille easily the medical and medicinal information that requires exactness and mass production, reduced the workload of individual volunteers and their groups more than in the days when Braillewriting tools were used and hand-written Braille was of main stream.
And moreover, the use of Internet has made it faster and smoother for blind and visually-impaired people to access to medical facilities and volunteers groups.

However, I should indicate several points to which attention should be paid, when we write in Braille the description of medicine and taking-medicine instruction.

1. Instantaneous judgment of efficiency
The description of medicine is so diversified and complicated that it isvery difficult to distinguish one medicine from another at a glance ofthe name written in Braille. The efficiency is desired to indicate in a wayhow pharmacists can judge on the spot which one is a sure remedy for the patient at issue.

2. Simple expression (use of alphabetic and numeric letters)
A big disadvantage for blind and visually-impaired people incur is that they cannot select visually information that they need. They have to search for necessary part, reading the indication written in Braille from top to bottom. So medical information should be expressed as simple as possible so that they might be able to collect necessary information instantly with finger touch. The indication in alphabetic and numeric characters is desirable.

3. Direct communication
It is not sufficient for pharmacists to distribute or paste medical and medicinal information tags written in Braille. When blind and visually-impaired people can exchange direct communication with a pharmacist, they feel assured to take medicine and medical information exactly .

4. User-friendly communication method
Medical information must be informed correctly and impartially to patients, whether they may be physically handicapped or non-handicapped. The communication method must be user-friendly that is not a burden to persons working in the medical field: low-priced, easy to handle, even those who don't understands Braille can use, and able to put on medicine bags which are now used.

In addition , medical information must also contain the indication for which pharmacists are responsible, and I recommend it should be written in both letters and Braille on transparent tag-seal so that people may be able to read it easily, whether they may be visually impaired or not.

However, I wish to state under what circumstances blind and visually-impaired people are placed even if medical information are written in Braille. Braille-writing may be very helpful for blind and visually-impaired people, but very few of them can read Braille. Persons who lose vision because of disease or disorder of eye, optic nerve or brain have been increasing in number, and even persons of low and normal vision struggle with reading the indications in letters as they get aged. Also, people are often forced to take medicine in the darkness, when such emergency as power failure or smoke happens.
A countermeasure against these accidents is required to take as soon as possible. Please let me introduce several measures as followings.

1. Classification by coloring and appending symbol marks to show the contents (example: calcium tablet = mark of bone) in medical box and sheet due to efficiency of medicines.

2. Marking with magnified Braille by which even sighted persons can distinguish embossed dots ( embossed space : 1.5 times of normal size), and embossing medicine bags with the marks that are common all over the world.

3. Writing prescription in simplified form and printing it in large print.

4. Simple and plain indication on the medicine.

5. Restricted tablets size : when tablets size is small, it is very intractable to take them and Pharmacists may make error for mixing, while it is very hard to swallow them when big.

In addition , communication between patients and doctors or pharmacists is very important in order to avoid various problems occurring. Especially among handicapped persons, privacy matter happens, and so, service that is provided one-sidedly from administrative organization cannot spread among them.
It is very effective to act in concert with volunteers who have frequent contact with blind and visually-impaired people in daily life. As we hope volunteers' activity is effective, especially when they meet with a disaster, .
Also, medical center around the country is requested to tackle the indication of medical and medicinal information in color or embossed marking to secure uniformity and to avoid confusion among people concerned. Administrative organization, medical center and companies are strongly requested to tackle this subject in perfect union.

March 12, 2002


ike@fujisawa


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