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Is Accessible Packaging the Key to a Better Consumer Experience?

Many areas of society have finally taken on board the need for accessibility for all. From mandatory disabled access to public places through to aids that help the visually impaired navigate more easily, life is gradually becoming more inclusive – at least in most developed countries.

But what about packaging? Can the same be applied to not only improve the lives of those with impairments – but for everyone?

To make a considered decision, it’s first necessary to determine the reasons packaging can cause consumer difficulties and the knock-on results from this.

Why Might a Person Struggle with Regular Packaging?

Even those with average or above-average dexterity and eyesight, and without any kind of disability, often experience issues with packaging. I bet you can recall struggling to open a plastic blister pack product that required iron will and a tough pair of scissors to make even the tiniest indentation towards the product inside.

Or how about the instructions on a package being so small that they’re barely legible, even with glasses on? Plus, how many times have you used a knife to access hard to open packaging, only for the contents to spill out?

Now put yourself in the situation of someone with limited motor skills, partially sighted or blind. What if you’re in the later years of life or suffer from a condition that means you have limited sensation in your hands or fingers?

Suddenly the ease of opening packaging (or the lack of it) takes on a whole new meaning.

What are the Repercussions of Hard to Open Packaging?

The following lists the results of research carried out by Arthritis Australia:

  • While everyone struggles with packaging, the most impacted are those with arthritis, disabilities, advancing age and children
  • 92% (of all consumers) have spilt or damaged a product when trying to open packaging
  • 44% struggle with packaging on a daily basis
  • 65% have to wait for someone else to open packaging for them
  • 89% feel frustrated or furious with the packaging of products
  • 1 in 2 of Australians have injured themselves when opening packaging, such as sustaining deep cuts or chipping a tooth
  • In the UK, 67,000 people visit an Emergency Department each year due to an accident involving packaging of food or drink

The research also determined that when experiencing hard to open packaging:

  • 21% look to buy a competitor’s product
  • 56% look for the same product but in a different type of packaging

Sadly, most manufacturers design their packaging to suit people with full sight and dexterity in both hands – because they want to scale and reach the majority. However, this attitude disregards the significant percentage of people who fall outside of this demographic. With over a billion people worldwide (according to World Bank) having some kind of disability, packaging designers should keep this in mind during the design process.

What is Accessible Packaging?

Quite simply, accessible packaging is that which is easy to open and use for all. This includes those with limited functional abilities and sight, meaning all labelling must be easily read.

Accessible packaging boasts inclusive design – in other words, can be used by the majority of people, even if they have a disability. The added effect of making packaging easier for disabled people is that everyone benefits. No more frantic searches for scissors to hack away at seemingly impenetrable packing or calling on someone else to decipher tiny instruction labels.

The following are just some ways in which to do this:

  • Designing easy to open mechanisms: Such as those that can be opened with a single hand and without hard to navigate ties or plastic wrapping. Consider the production of packaging that has various ways of opening it, such as shaking or easy access ‘pop open’ entry.
  • Make packaging visually clear: Take advantage of highly legible, high-contrast colours that are easily read by those with visual impairment. Use a large typeface for important information, such as the name of the product and any use-by date. Be sure to feature easy to read fonts, such as sans-serif.
  • Embrace tactile: While this is yet to become mainstream, it’s possible to use biodegradable gel to create a tactile expiry date. Mimica Touch is a company offering this novel solution, by which the gel is contained in a little pouch displayed on the packaging. It feels bumpy to touch and is designed to degrade at the same rate as the food within the packaging, thereby allowing those with poor or no vision to use touch to determine if it’s in date. Once the food reaches its expiration date the gel will have also degraded to the point that it’s flat to touch.
  • Using symbols: Similar to the above, tactile markings on packaging can be used to signal what the product is. This has been showcased on the haircare range of Herbal Essences. They differentiate between the shampoo and conditioner by featuring stripes on the shampoo bottles and circles on the conditioner. Not only does this simple fact assist the visually impaired, but everyone who’s ever got shampoo in their eyes while washing their hair and is looking for the conditioner bottle

These are but a few ideas that show the advantages of accessible packaging. Arthritis Australia has, in conjunction with Dr. Brad Frain, determined the Accessible Packaging Guidelines to help companies come up with innovative designs.

The creation of accessible packaging is best approached in conjunction with an expert source, such as leading Australian provider of card and folding carton packaging, Crystal Print & Packaging Solutions. Known for its sustainability and ethical production, this Perth-based supplier works with customers to create the ultimate packaging options for their brand and products.