RNIB calls on businesses to design packaging that works for everyone

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) are raising awareness and calling on businesses to thinking accessibly in their design, as part of its broader goal to break down barriers people with sight loss face in society.

On the charity’s journey towards redesigning the world with accessibility in mind, they’ve so far partnered with the likes of the Bank of England to create accessible bank notes using raised dots, with LEGO to create braille bricks, and with Herbal Essences to create accessible shampoo and conditioner bottles using tactile markings.

Now, they’re turning their focus to packaging, calling on businesses and manufacturers to reconsider their product and packaging designs.

Accessible design is better for everyone

RNIB’s mission is built on the knowledge that designing accessibly has wide-reaching benefits to both businesses and end-consumers, beyond the immediate impact on the lives of people with sight loss.

That’s largely because when products are intuitive, easy to use and exceptionally clear, the user experience is better for everyone.

Many of the life-changing products we rely on every day were created with blind and partially sighted people in mind. Amazon Echo, audiobooks and the QWERTY keyboard  are three such examples.

Inclusive design has never been so important in ensuring businesses are developing their products and services in the most innovative ways, and to the widest market possible.

The problem of inaccessible packaging

In the UK, it is a legal requirement for businesses to include ingredients and nutritional information on food products, meaning everyone has the right to know what they’re buying.*

But the reality is – as is the case in so many other walks of life – this right does not apply to people with sight loss. Shockingly, 9 in 10 blind and partially sighted people say that information on food packaging is either difficult or impossible to read.

The implications

But it’s only when you consider what this really means do you realise how much of a challenge this creates.

Imagine not being able to know the ingredients or nutritional information of a product – or use-by dates, prices and cooking instructions.

This can be exhausting and frustrating, particularly when dealing with other factors like allergies and intolerances, or ethics-related and weight-related diets. The same issue applies to household cleaning products, or more widely, delivery packaging or building instructions.  Even your weekly shop at the supermarket becomes a far more arduous chore than it needs to be.

Just like everybody else, it’s clear that people with sight loss should have equal opportunities to live the independent and spontaneous lifestyle that they choose, through choice and access to information.

The solutions

Promisingly, however, change is within reach. RNIB works with businesses to find the right solutions, technologies, and tools to make their packaging more accessible.

Contrary to popular belief, adding braille to packaging isn’t always the most effective solution. Braille can only provide limited information on packaging and requires costly manufacturing processes. More importantly, less than 10% of blind and partially sighted people know how to read braille.

One of the most effective technologies available, however, is NaviLens.

NaviLens means businesses are now able to offer an inclusive, multi-purpose user experience. The technology works by making vital information – such as that found on packaging – accessible through a simple, subtle artwork change (inclusion of a NaviLens code), which is connected to the NaviLens app on the end-users’ smart device, such as a smartphone.

It builds on the benefits of QR codes by enabling far more intuitive access to information.

That’s because activating NaviLens does not rely on distances or angles. This is vital for people with sight loss who may not know exactly where a product sits on the supermarket shelf. More than one code can be acquired at the same time and no focus is required, making information accessible even on the move. Information is then automatically presented and communicated to user needs, such as being read aloud or shown in large print on a smartphone.

And, just as the development of Amazon Echo and audiobooks have benefited so many, the benefits of NaviLens also extend beyond people with sight loss. For example, the technology allows customers to translate packaging information into multiple languages.

Despite NaviLens being so innovative it isn’t the only solution, that’s why RNIB work with a wide range of businesses every day to get the best solution for all. Whether you’re a start-up or a large corporation, there’s always a way you can make your company a better place for people with sight loss.


Bringing it to the public eye

To further highlight the problems that come with inaccessible design, RNIB recently opened the ‘Whatsin Store’ – a stunt that illustrates just how important it is to know what products you’re buying.

RNIB filled an entire corner shop with a mixture of blank and ambiguously labelled products and let unsuspecting members of the public interact with them, all in front of hidden cameras. The shocked reactions confirmed why this technology is needed in the first place. There was no way of them telling them what was inside the packaging.

Supported by print, social and direct mail, the campaign aims to encourage business leaders to work with RNIB to advise and support on how make their product offerings more accessible to people with sightloss.

Final proof points to new businesses

With the support of RNIB, Kellogg’s is proving to be a pioneer in the accessible packaging space, after recently committing to rolling out NaviLens technology across all their cereal boxes in Europe, after a successful trial period. We are hoping that brands see this as their opportunities to get on board after seeing the success with one of the biggest brands in the world.

It appears that, at long last, accessible design is moving in the right direction.


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* Source: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/food-labelling-giving-food-information-to-consumers



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