With 1 in 4 Europeans living with some form of disability that significantly affects their daily routines and limits their capabilities, we must create products that are inclusive of all.

When developing inclusive products, brands must first look at accessible product packaging to truly exhibit inclusivity and empathy and distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive market.

Steve Brownett-Gale from Lifestyle Packaging delves into the critical importance of accessible packaging and how it can elevate your product portfolio.


Defining accessible packaging

Accessible packaging refers to a design philosophy that considers the varying needs and capabilities of all potential users. This approach aims to create packaging that is universally easy to open, handle, and use, no matter the users’ physical or cognitive abilities. Essentially, the focus of accessible packaging is to empower all customers to independently engage with and utilise products.

Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit details the foundational principles of accessible packaging. They include identifying exclusion, understanding diversity, and designing for one to benefit many.

It goes beyond merely physical access and includes the clarity of product information to ensure that everyone, including those with cognitive challenges or literacy difficulties, can make well-informed product decisions.

Regulations for design

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has provided guidelines for accessible packaging design with ISO 1780:2015. These guidelines recommend ease of opening and encourage brands to consider aspects such as the force required to open packaging, the necessity for tools, and the intuitiveness of the opening mechanism. Other design elements include the location of the opening, methods and evaluation techniques that are both instrumented and user-based.

Abiding by these guidelines guarantees that packaging is accessible to a wide range of users, including those with limited strength or manual dexterity. The aim is not merely compliance; it’s about curating a product experience that respects and values all consumers.

Inclusive design: An empathy-driven approach

Emphasising empathy in accessible packaging design is vital. An empathetic, user-centred design process engages with the end-users, understands their needs, and empathises with their experiences. This process allows brands to create products that include everyone, enhance the user experience, and foster brand loyalty.

Brands must understand users’ challenges and frustrations with current packaging options, using these insights to inform design choices. It’s about viewing the world through the users’ lens and creating solutions that simplify their lives.

Kellogg Europe is a prime example of a brand that has successfully integrated empathy into its packaging design. The brand listened to the challenge its visually impaired customers faced in identifying its products.

The brand was Europe’s first beverage brand to launch on-pack technology for blind and visually impaired customers by rolling out NaviLens QR codes on its product packaging in 2022. Using NaviLens technology, users can scan a code on the product to audibly access packaging information, usage and disposable instructions via the NaviLens app.

Accessible packaging success stories

To truly embrace accessible packaging, first, we must look at the brands leading the way in this space.

Proctor & Gamble is a shining example of an organisation that owns multiple brands and is committed to inclusive packaging and accessible design, thanks to its Special Consultant for Inclusive Design, Sam Latif, who is visually impaired herself.

Its haircare brand Herbal Essences introduced tactile markings on its shampoo and conditioner bottles in 2018. Shampoo bottles feature four tactile vertical lines, while the conditioner bottles have two rows of circles. This simple yet effective design allows people with visual impairments to differentiate between the two products by touch, making it easier for them to independently select the right product during their shower routine.

Additionally, Proctor & Gamble’s Always Discreet range incorporates features that support blind and partially sighted customers. The packaging incorporates NaviLens technology and includes Braille and large print, making it easier for these customers to identify and use the product.

Meanwhile, Unilever developed ’Degree Inclusive’, a deodorant for people with visual impairment and limited arm mobility. The deodorant features Braille, a hooked container for one-handed users, enhanced grip placement, and magnetic ‘click’ closures. It also has an oversized roll-on applicator for a broader application with each swipe.

These examples underline the potential of accessible packaging to enhance the user experience and set brands apart in the marketplace.

The universal appeal of accessible packaging

Accessible packaging caters to a diverse range of customers and is not solely beneficial to individuals with disabilities. It can also aid the elderly, children, or anyone who finds conventional packaging challenging. By incorporating accessible design elements, brands can make their products more user-friendly, thus expanding their customer base and opening up new market segments.

Marketing the benefits of accessible packaging should be a fundamental part of a brand’s strategy. This involves showcasing the functional aspects of the packaging and communicating the brand’s commitment to inclusivity. The goal is to tell a story that connects with consumers, showing that the brand values all its customers and is dedicated to meeting their diverse needs.

As we move into an era of inclusivity, a shift in packaging design is essential. Accessible packaging isn’t just a passing trend but a necessary step brands must take to ensure inclusivity.

Prioritising accessible design allows brands to stand out in a crowded market and appeal to a wider customer base. Even more importantly, it enables brands to form deeper connections with their customers by demonstrating their understanding and commitment to their needs, leading to increased brand loyalty and customer retention.

The future of packaging is inclusive. Brands that recognise this will be the ones that truly make a mark.

Brands must rise to the challenge and opportunity that accessible packaging provides. They need to invest in research and development, engage with their customers, and collaborate with design teams to create packaging that is not just functional but inclusive.

Investing in accessible packaging design is a savvy business move that can drive growth and success in today’s ever-growing, crowded market.

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