Coffee With Kalari: My Journey to Vaccine Land!

When the COVID-19 vaccination first became available, I was hesitant to get a shot. I was worried about the potential long-term effects, but I was also concerned for my husband and parents because they are in high-risks populations.

After much internal debate, I decided to get the vaccination. I wanted my life back, and I was tired of living in fear. I was tired of touching items and  worrying that I had just contracted COVID-19. As a blind individual, my hands are my eyes. I had to adapt to not touching items when I entered a store or any other public place. If I wanted to truly live again, I needed to get vaccinated.

After overcoming my original apprehension, finding an appointment online was a nightmare. I had to contend with inaccessible links; I struggled with moving around the page. On some of the sites, the screen reader couldn’t interpret the text. I got so frustrated that I was on the verge of tears. It was almost enough to stop me from going forward. If not for assistance from The Chicago Lighthouse, I doubt I would have followed through. Here is my painful journey in trying to secure an appointment from the three primary vaccination websites.
Within Illinois, this site is only for Chicagoans who are trying to get an appointment.  I found this site to be the most accessible, primarily due to its screen reader button. This button is located at the top of the site and transforms the site into being more screen reader friendly. The links are listed easily, and the keystrokes work, which allows for smooth navigation. Headings are quicker to find, and the signup sheet is extremely accessible.
This website is available to all Illinois residents who are interested in getting a vaccination. Even though this was not as user- friendly as Zocdoc, it was still pretty accessible. I could navigate the site and find if any locations were located in my area. Frustratingly, the maps were visual, but they did enable the screen reader to read addresses and locations. On the signup sheet, the form fields were easy to write in, and forms could be easily submitted. The main drawback was that the site had images that had to be navigated around in order to get to the text. It took a little longer to navigate the page because of the images, but it was still manageable.
This site is for all the residents of Cook County who wanted a vaccination. This site was the least accessible. Navigation around the site was challenging and difficult.  The keystrokes did not work at all. I could not use the signup sheet, which did not have edit boxes that were screen reader friendly. In fact, this site was nearly impossible to navigate. After fighting with the site for hours, I caved and called on sighted help. It is easier to call the COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at (833) 308-1988 and endure the long hold times.

I applaud the city and the State of Illinois for having accessible websites.  The only way that we will ever reach herd immunity is if everyone gets vaccinated. To ensure that this occurs, we need all the vaccination sites to be accessible.  If this fails to happen, everyone will just have to endure the hold times over the phone or the wait times at walk-up vaccination sites. Who knows how many people will just give up?

Has it been hard for you to secure a vaccination appointment online? What challenges did you face while trying to secure your appointment online? Do you normally book your medical appointments online or through an app? I would love to hear your experiences!

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