Best Practices and Considerations for Prescription Label Accessibility

Published February 3, 2021

Having full confidence that you're taking the right dosage of the right medication shouldn't be a privilege. Neither should knowing when to refill a prescription or catching errors made by the pharmacy or others. Safe and reliable access to information is vital for everyone — certainly not less so for individuals with visual disabilities.

The U.S. Access Board has provided great advisory guidance on the accessibility of prescription labels on drug containers for persons with visual disability. Some of the main concepts are represented here.

Delivery mechanisms for prescription drug label accessibility

Container labels for prescription drugs can be made accessible using a range of delivery mechanisms, such as large print, Braille, and audio format. The pharmacy that is filling prescriptions should be able to provide large print and hard copy Braille labels on request. These accessible prescription labels should be securely affixed to the drug container.

Specific electronic or digital mechanisms can also be utilized to provide prescription drug label accessibility. Examples include Text-to-Speech or Digital Voice Recorder (DVR) and Radio Frequency Identification Device or RFID. A DVR is an electronic device affixed to the medication container. When the patient presses a button on the recorder, they can hear the prescription label information.

In case of RFID, the pharmacy will affix a radio frequency identification tag on the container. The patient with visual disability is equipped with a small device to activate the tag. Once the patient places the container with the ID tag on the device, they can hear the prescription information. Other smart mobile and computer devices may also be similarly used to provide prescription drug label accessibility.

Best practices for accessibility across multiple label formats

Pharmacists can promote prescription drug label accessibility by using the following best practices:

  • Encourage patients to communicate their requirements by offering a toll-free phone number, mobile app, or website support.
  • Abide by universal prescription label standards that are more patient-centric.
  • Provide multiple formats for accessibility of prescription labels, including large print, Braille, and audible formats.
  • Inform the available drug label accessibility options and provide the label in the specific option chosen by the patient.
  • Make sure that the integrity of the original prescription label is maintained when an alternative accessible label is provided.
  • Ensure patient privacy in conformance to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules when producing accessible prescription labels.
  • Maintain inventory of items that are necessary to ensure timely delivery of prescription drugs with accessible labels.
  • Maintain the same delivery time for a prescription for people with or without visual disability.
  • Avoid adding a surcharge to cover the cost of prescription label accessibility.

Suggestions for audible format prescription labels

For electronic or digital audible format prescription drug labels, choose devices that are easy to use in terms of start/stop commands and volume control. When using a digital voice recorder, make sure the information is provided in a clear voice with minimum background noise. Make sure the patient privacy is maintained. You should offer to provide a demo to the patient on how to use the audible format label.

Suggestions for Braille and large print format prescription labels

Pharmacists should provide for an electronic delivery mechanism based on solutions, such as QR codes or RFI tags, to provide the prescription label in electronic text on the patient’s request. Patients with electronic Braille devices will be able to access this electronic information in Braille.

Sometimes the pharmacy may have a regular demand for Braille prescription labels in hard copy format. They should acquire the necessary software and on-site Braille embosser equipment to produce hard copy Braille labels.

If the pharmacy only receives sporadic requests for prescription labels in hard copy Braille, they should maintain a standing arrangement with another pharmacy with types of capabilities in order meet specific patient requests.