Ellume COVID-19 Home Test Accessibility Review

Recently I reported on the availability of COVID-19 tests that advertised themselves to be accessible for blind and visually impaired users. The tests are available at no cost from the US Post Office and come in six packs of two each (I’ll include a link to the ordering information later). According to the press release about the tests, full audio instructions were included in the app. After returning home from a trip, I received an exposure notification which advised quarantining if I was not vaccinated and to test if I began exhibiting symptoms of COVID. Since I got back, I have been feeling blah, and noticed elevated temperatures at night, which was one of the first symptoms I showed when I contracted COVID last year. I thought this was an opportune time to give these accessible home tests a whirl and report to all of you. Were they easy to use, and perhaps more importantly were they accessible for someone who is blind or partially sighted? Let’s talk about it.

The Test

The Ellume COVID-19 home tests come with a few packages, a bottle of testing fluid, and some product information leaflets. None of the packaging is labeled in braille or described in the audio overview instructions.

The Analyzer

The long package contains the Bluetooth connected analyzer which has a power/connect combo button and a receptacle for the testing fluid to be placed in (more on that later).

The dropper

The dropper is the second package and contains an elongated round tube which the testing fluid is squeezed into during the test process.

The nasal swab

The nasal swab comes in the blister pack. The swab is long, and the base of the swab has a flip top lid, and a plastic spacer for children which needs to be removed if the test is going to be used on an adult.

The testing liquid

The testing liquid comes in a very small tube with a plastic lid that is removed by twisting.  

The Process

The quick start guide goes through each piece of the included materials and then suggests searching your app market for the Ellume app. The analyzer connects via Bluetooth and only works with later generation smartphones. A compatibility list is available, but if your phone is not more than a few years old you should be fine.

The first thing you are asked to do is squeeze the contents of the testing fluid tube into the dropper. The tip of the tube twisted off and I emptied the contents into the dropper easily. Next you are instructed to connect the analyzer to your phone by turning it on and ensuring the green light is on. This is difficult for a person with no vision, as there is no auditory clue of the analyzer being powered on from the analyzer or the companion app. The next step is to hold the power button on the analyzer until the green light starts flashing rapidly – again with no audio cue from the analyzer or the companion app to let the user know that the unit had been successfully connected.

Removal of the plastic spacer on the nasal swab is next then the user is instructed to place the swab into the nose and rotate three times. This procedure is repeated for the other nostril. After swabbing, the unit with the swab is screwed tightly onto the dropper and the lid is flipped open and turned upside down. The user needs to then place five drops of the liquid into the receptacle of the analyzer unit. There was no way I was going to be able to do this part without a sighted person to either do it for me or guide me in the process.

Once the liquid is in the analyzer, a button click on the app starts the 15-minute timer to await the results. There is no audio cue from the app when the timer starts, or when the timer is complete. The user is advised not to close the app, so I went the extra step of setting my phone not to auto lock, to ensure it would stay on during the test reading phase.  When testing is complete there is no audio cue for the user to know and no audio announcement of the result. There is a learn more button at the bottom, and below that is a share results button which could easily be mistakenly pressed. I didn’t want to share my results, so I clicked learn more – users should be aware that the share button would be easy to press inadvertently.

Results

My test result was negative, but it was an eye opener that this test is not as accessible as advertised. Downloading the app was easy and putting the testing liquid into the dropper was easy, but not being able to see the light on the analyzer and no audio cue from the app to guide the process made things difficult. The requirement of dropping five drops of liquid into a small hole on the analyzer is also a non-starter in terms of a totally blind person being able to do this test alone.

Reporting

My result was negative, but I was informed when setting up the app that my personal information like date of birth, location and test result may be shared with the CDC, making this test not anonymous. If that is a concern for you, now you know.  I don’t mind sharing my results, especially considering I am sharing it publicly with all of you today.

Thoughts

I’m not sure if the test in its present form really qualifies in my mind as accessible. It is cool that the thing connects via Bluetooth, and gives the results, but the process to get the results needs to be reconsidered before it is really accessible without someone who is sighted to assist.

Things could be improved, in the app, a button which would give the user audio cues for completing the current step would be of great benefit and minimize the impact to fully sighted users. An audio cue for powering on the analyzer would be great but I doubt that could be completed without a redesign of the unit. Adding an audio cue for connecting the app to the phone should be easy and would be a good indication of the analyzer being ready to accept the testing fluid.  

Asking a blind or nearly blind person to squeeze five drops of liquid into a tiny hole is not a good plan. To minimize the possibility of user error, the user should be able to turn the dropper over and squeeze all of the fluid into the reservoir of the analyzer unit. The team had the right idea for the swab and dropper, the user swabs then screw the swab onto the dropper. The dropper should screw onto the analyzer in some way which would minimize the likelihood of the user missing the receptacle when squeezing in the fluid.

Lastly, the app or the accompanying materials should explain which piece is which, as I did above, especially for users with no sight. This test is being advertised as accessible it should be accessible to those who are partially sighted and blind.  

Conclusion

This test is certainly a step in the right direction for allowing those who are blind to home test accurately, however it appears as though the team who created the system do not employ partially sighted people or did little testing with focus groups who are blind or partially sighted.  I’m always willing to put my time where my mouth is and if the Ellume team or any other team want my feedback on accessibility of materials such as this, I am more than willing to help – all you have to do is ask.

Ordering Information 

Link for the announcement about the COVID tests

https://acb.org/accessible-COVID-tests-announcement

Link to order directly

https://special.usps.com/testkits/accessible

Before you go…

Thank you for checking out our Ellume COVID-19 home test review, I love to hear from my readers, have you tried the Ellume test? What was your experience? If you have questions about my experience with this test, feel free to drop me a note on my social media links below or right here on blind travels. Follow me and I will happily follow you back.

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