Pregnancy test re-designed for people with sight loss

Finding out you are pregnant is one of life’s biggest moments, but it may be a moment that you want to have on your own. Since the first home pregnancy test was produced in 1971, finding out the result of a pregnancy test in private was next to impossible if you had a visual impairment.
Our team wanted to find out more about the prototype pregnancy test that has been developed by the RNIB, making it possible for the first time to find out results independently. Read on to find out more...

The pregnancy test design brief

The RNIB interviewed women between the ages of 18 and 40, and following the interviews, five key design principles were established.  These were:

  • Independent – the whole process from start to finished needed to be doable by your self.
  • Reassured – you need to be confident that the process is and has been completed correctly and can be done by yourself.
  • Affordable – the device needs to be a similar price to mainstream pregnancy testing.
  • Suited – you need to be able to control how you see the result.
  • Subtle – you need to be able to do it all privately.
RNIB logo

Other design considerations

Privacy and discretion were highlighted as the major factors of pregnancy testing. As such, vocal feedback was ruled out in favour of a tactile result. Other issues faced with using a traditional pregnancy testing kit include fiddly packaging, instructions that were difficult to read due to the small font size, the colouring of the device makes it difficult to work out which end is the business end and where the results would be displayed, and the size of the tip means it is difficult to know whether it has had sufficient urine to perform the test.

The preferred design

A number of different designs were considered and the preferred option was a redesigned stick with tactile output. The stick would be made larger, and utilise high contrast colours to improve use. The tactile area would clearly raise for a positive result, and a tactile control on the underside would raise regardless to show that the test had been successfully activated.

Accessible pregnancy test

The final pregnancy test prototype

The final design uses the same optical sensor technology for the actual test as existing digital pregnancy tests. As per the design spec published by the RNIB, it works like this:

  • The user activates the device when urine is absorbed. The absorption pad turns pink to indicate a liquid has been absorbed. The liquid is absorbed by the standard hCG test stick.
  • The optical scanner then reads the test result. Once the ‘control’ line has been scanned, the engine is activated, rotating a worm gear (threaded rod) which forces the two nylon cams in a linear motion by using guide channels. As the rear cam passes the interior tactile ‘control’ component, the part is pushed down through holes in the lower chassis, pressing the part against the elastic pad and locks the component in place. This creates the first tactile result.
  • If the test strip detects hCG in sufficient quantities (positive result), the chip tells the engine to continue running. The front cam is eventually engaged with the ‘positive result’ component as it travels forward, forcing the part upwards through holes in the upper chassis, pressing the part against the elastic pad and locking the component in place.
  • The user can then examine the model using touch and determine the result!

How the pregnancy test works

In other words, the user would urinate on one end and different parts of the device would be raised to confirm the test has been successful and the results of the test.
The prototype device is about 4 inches or 10 cm long by about an inch high and an inch wide with rounded corners all the way around. The business end has a slot in it to receive the tip, which has a protruding area of about an inch square when inserted. The back end is tapered making it obvious which end is which. The top of the device is bright pink and the bottom is pink, giving a clear contrast between the two. There is a tactile pad on the top, which gives out the result and a tactile ridge on the bottom to confirm that the test has been completed successfully.

Further information

Unfortunately, this is not available yet, which is one reason why we haven’t been able to try it. But the RNIB have published their design prototype documentation in the hope that a developer will take it up and run with it. If you would like further information, please contact the RNIB on 0303 123 9999.

Although this will not be a game-changer for the masses, if and when this device is produced, this device will give the user dignity and privacy in one of their most emotional and life-changing moments.

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