Diabetes and sight loss are closely connected, with diabetic retinopathy being a common related condition for people living with diabetes. Over the last few years, CNIB has heard from Canadians living with diabetes and sight loss who are having difficulties managing their diabetes because their insulin pump is not accessible. End users are unable to independently or safely use their insulin pump because often the device must be navigated solely using visual features on a display screen.
This is unacceptable given that diabetic retinopathy is the fourth leading cause of sight loss in Canada and the leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States. As far as we are aware, there are no accessible insulin pumps on the Canadian or international markets. There are currently 750,000 people alone living with diabetic retinopathy in Canada, not taking into account the number of people living with other sight conditions and diabetes.
In partnership with Diabetes Canada, CNIB is working with manufacturers, regulators, researchers, community members with lived experience and healthcare professionals to collaborate on solutions to this issue.
For more information, please take a look at our Accessible Insulin Pumps Briefing Note.
In Summer 2020, CNIB launched an international survey to better understand the experiences of people living with sight loss and diabetes when managing their insulin. The research found that insulin pumps currently offered on the international market are not accessible for those who are blind or partially sighted. The majority of pump users require the assistance of other individuals to properly and safely use their device.
The survey also identified many accessibility problems with current pumps; such as lack of haptic feedback (i.e. vibrations), lack of tactile feedback (i.e. buttons designed for accessibility), and lack of sufficient audio feedback and visual feedback.
The full results of the survey are awaiting publication in an academic journal and we look forward to sharing those in due course. This year we are commissioning further research to conduct a thorough accessibility review of existing insulin pumps models on the Canadian market and conduct end user research in order provide a list of recommendations on how to make an insulin pumps fully accessible.
Hybrid Closed-Loop Systems (HCLs)
As the diabetes device industry looks ahead to the future of diabetes management, we are also exploring the possibilities of hybrid closed-loop systems (where a person's insulin pump and continual glucose monitor automatically communicate with each other to regulate glucose levels). While this type of system is not currently approved by Health Canada, we are interested in its potential to make diabetes management more accessible for people who are blind or partially sighted. For more information, please read our recent feedback report on HCLs.
We are always looking to hear from community members living with diabetes and sight loss to share their stories and inform our advocacy campaign. We are especially interested in talking to people from diverse ethnocultural backgrounds who are predisposed to diabetes to ensure that our campaign includes the perspectives of all experiences of diabetes. If you are interested in supporting the campaign or getting involved, please email email@example.com
Ryan's story (Ontario)
Kelly's story (Newfoundland)
Marie-Catherine's story (Quebec)
Anne's story (Quebec)
Les pompes à insuline accessibles AMI-télé, 16 March, 2021
Advocating for improvements to enhance the lives of people with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, The Globe and Mail, April 2021
Accessible Insulin Pumps – November 2021 Advocacy Campaign
Thank you to everyone who joined us this November for Diabetes Awareness Month in our advocacy campaign for accessible insulin pumps. Approximately 400 people took action and wrote to their MP, asking them to call upon contact Minister Duclos and Associate Minister Bennett and request that Health Canada adapt its processes for approving medical devices, to ensure insulin pumps entering the market are fully accessible. Over 188 MPs were contacted and heard from their constituents that Canada needs insulin pumps that everyone can use safely and independently.
We are really encouraged by the positive responses people forwarded from their MPs who had written to the Ministers, and we will be meeting with Ministry of Health in early 2022 to build on this momentum. In particular, we will be focusing on the development of an accessible healthcare device standard which could be incorporated into the Health Canada approvals process and ensure that future devices are fully accessible to all Canadians.
If you didn’t get the chance to take this action or to keep informed about our progress, please subscribe to our advocacy e-newsletter.