A visit to any doctor’s office can include some degree of difficulty for people with uncorrectable vision loss. The same challenges can even exist in the office of the ophthalmologist. Good patient care is not just measured by the exam and treatment, it is also measured by the patient experience.
Follow these guidelines to establish policies and procedures that help create an accessible office environment that is better for everyone.
Make Sure Signage is Easy to Read
Signs throughout the office should be in large print, using legible, highly contrasted easy to read font styles. Never use print on a patterned background, or gold letters on a beige wall. Positioning signs close to eye level makes them easier for everyone to see.
Utilize Color Contrast
Use contrast in the office design. Paint doors or frames a color that stands out from walls. Use dark seating against a light carpet color. Steps should always have contrasted edges and handrails. Avoid glass doors and walls entirely, they are hazardous to people with low vision and also those with dilated eyes.
Use Good Verbal Communication
Always address patients directly by name, as they may not be able to see that you are speaking to them, or make eye contact. When you greet a patient, identify yourself by name, don’t assume they will recognize you or know your voice. Generally, it is not necessary to speak loudly to people with vision loss, unless you know their hearing is also impaired.
Ask the patient if they need your assistance. Don’t make assumptions about their abilities or their needs.
Don’t point or say, “over there,” when giving directions. Orient to the person’s direction by saying, “Walk to the end of this hall and turn left, the exit is the first door on your right.”
Provide Accessible Information
Obviously, it is incorrect to assume all patients are able to complete paper forms. If your office is still using clipboards to collect information, there should be alternatives offered. Better options for everyone include online forms or having a staff member directly input all necessary information, provided by phone, pre-appointment.
Make sure written communications are accessible. Any printed or digital information given to patients should use text at least 18 pt., or larger and bolder when possible. Always use a clean, easy reading, sans-serif font style like: Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana. Be sure the content on copied documents is clearly legible.
For many patients, particularly those who cannot easily read print, digital documents are the best alternative, as they can be adjusted to the reading preference of each individual.
Remember, small changes can make a big difference in the way patients feel when they visit your office.