Voices from the Pews: Building a Culture of Accessibility

Providing concrete supports for individuals with disabilities is a critical part of building a culture of life. Parishioner Sharla Glass has been working toward this goal, and she has written a guest post about a recent effort that can enhance safety and quality of life for individuals with many different types of disabilities.

One of the basic principles of Catholic teaching on social justice is that of subsidiarity, which means matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized competent authority—and that means if individuals can do it themselves, they ought to be enabled to do so.

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted 29 years ago we’ve been building a culture of inclusion.  As we incorporate universal design into our homes, businesses, and public places, the disabled and elderly are able to live more independently and contribute more to society as well.  We are also upholding many of the other themes of Catholic social justice, such as a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, solidarity, participation in community life, and the dignity of work.

Incorporating accessibility into our spaces and services helps preserve human dignity as well.  No one wants to have to explain all the details of their (possibly hidden and complicated) disability just to have equal access to places and information.  And as the name suggests, universal design also helps everybody, including children who can’t read, short people who can’t reach, mothers with strollers, the person in a cast for six weeks, or a crowd of people navigating a dark building when the power goes out.

One example of an accommodation that new technology has made possible is accessible prescription labels.  These audible, large print, and Braille labels allow anyone who is vision impaired or print impaired (for example, people with traumatic brain injury, dyslexia, illiteracy, etc.) to hear/see/feel their prescription information. Hearing the medication information, instructions, and warnings read aloud means individuals with vision impairment can verify they received the correct drug and dosage and know the usage instructions and all the safety warnings without anyone else needing to do it for them. 

If you or someone you love has trouble reading the small print on prescription bottles, you could benefit from this free accommodation. It’s free because the ADA says pharmacies must not charge people for equal access to effective communication. You do not need a doctor’s note or proof of disability.  All you have to do is tell the participating pharmacy that you can’t read your prescription labels and ask for the format that best meets your needs: audible, large print, or Braille. 

There are several different kinds of audible prescription labels, and lots of pharmacies are already committed to providing this accommodation. ScripTalk® is provided by Merle Pharmacy, Walmart, Jewel, Humana, Caremark, OptumRx, and Express Scripts. CVS provides ScripTalk® via mail order and an Optaphonic device for Schedule 2 drugs that cannot be mailed.  Walgreens offers the Talking Pill Reminder device.   If you have any questions about accessible labels, need help requesting the service or would like information to take to your pharmacist, you can call or text parishioner Sharla Glass at 309-212-4365 for assistance.