Bucks County home-delivery pharmacy service believed to be first to cater to the blind

The service features braille labels that patients can feel.
FAIRLESS HILLS, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- When Alex Cohen's vision started to go dark from a degenerative retinal disease, he started to see a new purpose.

"We asked pharmacists, 'Hey, what do you do for blind patients here?'" the West Chester University marketing professor said of his research of pharmacy services for the blind.

He found that, oftentimes, they didn't have a set plan for helping blind customers.

"The blind and low vision community should have a place where they're expected as customers and patients," said Cohen, who holds a Ph.D. "We just decided to make our own marketplace."

That determination motivated him to create Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind, which started last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It added an incredible layer of challenge and also anxiety," said pharmacist Dr. Jason Barrett of the challenge that the pandemic has posed to the visually impaired and blind community.

Cohen partnered with Barrett to offer what, as far as they know, has never been offered before: a pharmacy service specifically catering to the blind.

"Everything we've done is to increase accessibility," said Barrett.

It's a service long overdue for people like Lynne Heitz who has lost most of her vision in one eye and has very little vision in the other. Accessibility means she can read her medication and her husband's.

"If God forbid, something would happen, I can know exactly what he's taking, when he needs to be taking it," she said.

The service features braille labels that patients can feel.

The braille on the box that patients receive shipped to their homes contains the name of the drug and instructions on how to take it.

The pharmacy service also offers labels that customers can scan with QR codes or an app that reads the contents out loud. Accessible Pharmacy Services operates virtually and over the phone with packaging designed to be tracked by a touch, letting users know exactly what day they are on for a particular medication.

"Punch out the drug, feel it with their hand, take the medication and know that they're going down," said Barrett.

It's all delivered with no extra fees because finances can be a barrier to the visually impaired.

"(Among the blind and visually impaired) somewhere between 70% and 75% are unemployed," said Cohen. "If there are things we can do to help people be more independent, that's worth the effort."

With each pill, there was a dose of independence. It has led to the creation of the largest blind-owned health care company in the country.

"I have never allowed my vision impairment to hold me back," he said.

Accessible Pharmacy Services operates via at-home delivery. They accept insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. For more information, visit https://www.accessiblepharmacy.com/ or call 215-799-9900.
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