Blind and low vision community neglected in My Health Record opt-out process

23 July 2018

Leading blindness and low vision service provider Vision Australia has expressed extreme frustration that the My Health Record online opt-out option cannot be accessed by all people who are blind or have low vision. 

Australians have until October 15 to opt out of My Health Record. If an individual does not opt out by that date they will automatically be given an online My Health Record, which could contain clinical documents, prescriptions and other private medical information.

People who are blind or have low vision cannot use the online opt-out option because it fails to meet accessibility standards.

Vision Australia Policy Advisor Kate Begley said it’s inexcusable that accessibility was not better considered by the Australian Digital Health Agency prior to the roll out of the opt-out process.

“When the My Health Record idea was first flagged in 2011, Vision Australia advised that all parts of the system must be accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. Despite the seven years of planning, a key part of the system is inaccessible,” Ms Begley said.

“Everybody should be able to control their personal information and people who are blind or have low vision should be given the opportunity to participate in this process with the same ease and convenience as anyone else,” she said. 

Several parts of the online opt-out system are incompatible with screen-reading software and other adaptive technologies used by many people who are blind or have low vision. Vision Australia believes the My Health Record portal does not comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which is the national and international benchmark for web accessibility, as well as being the Australian Government's own standard.

While there is also a telephone option to opt-out, Ms Begley said it does not afford people who are blind or have low vision the same convenience as the online option.

Vision Australia is also extremely concerned as to whether the content of the My Health Records will be accessible and said the situation highlights the need for a greater focus on accessibility.

“Incorporating accessibility is not difficult. It would not take a great deal of time or effort to fix the accessibility issues that prevent equal access to opting out of My Health Record. Unfortunately, as we see all too often, accessibility has not been prioritised when developing this process.”

Media enquiries: Vision Australia Communications Advisor Phil McCarroll – 0416 632 253.