The importance of accessible packaging

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This month, we’re talking a lot about unboxing because we’ve just launched our 2023 Unboxing Survey. It asks consumers to unpack their opinions on the packaging used by online retailers.

When most people think about unboxing, they consider branding and sustainability. But what about features that make packaging accessible and inclusive?

In the UK alone, there are about 16 million disabled people. Of those people, it’s estimated that the total spending power of families with at least 1 disabled person is around £274 billion a year. On top of that, we have an aging population. The last census estimated that just over 18% of our population is aged 65+. People are living longer and as we age, we may face mobility and accessibility challenges.

So, with this in mind, we’ll be considering the unboxing experience in the context of accessible packaging.


What is accessible packaging?

Essentially, accessible packaging is packaging that is easy for everyone to open and use. It can also be called inclusive packaging – as it is inclusive for all.

Accessible packaging should consider elements such as opening mechanisms, as well as visibility and tactile features.

accessible packaging

The benefits of accessible packaging – inclusivity for all abilities

Inclusivity is in the interest of both businesses and their consumers. Committing to accessible packaging can extend far and wide…

  • Practical handling and use – designing packaging to be inclusive means it is easier and more practical for everyone to use, no matter their ability. It leads to more positive interactions for consumers and minimises negative connotations with a product or brand.
  • Clarity on use or disposal – labelling and accessible marking ensure people know how to use the packaging or the product inside it. The right inclusive markings can also ensure the end-user knows how to dispose of or recycle the packaging properly.
  • Informed decisions – accessible information on packaging can help consumers make informed decisions about products. This is particularly important for food packaging and safe consumption.
  • Connecting with wider audiences – from a business perspective, embracing accessible packaging means connecting with wider audiences. There are millions of people who are differently abled, as well as an ageing population, who can benefit from this type of packaging. It could influence where they apply their spending power and brands they return to in the future.
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Designing packaging for all abilities

Integrating accessibility and inclusivity into the packaging design process should be as commonplace as factoring in specs like size, product weight and sustainability.

So, how can you design packaging to be more accessible and inclusive? Here are five inclusive packaging design principles to consider:

  1. The design should be equitable and ergonomic – in essence, the packaging should provide the same means and ease of use for all users of the packaging.
  2. The design should be flexible – this means the inclusive packaging should accommodate a range of preferences, so it is adaptable to different abilities.
  3. The design should be intuitive – the packaging simply must be easy to understand, regardless of the experience, knowledge and skills of the person using it.
  4. The design should be legible – packaging needs to be able to communicate key brand or product information clearly, maximising legibility and visibility.
  5. The design should be desirable – any print on packaging needs to make the packaging desirable to all members of your potential audience. Factoring in things like colour accessibility and contrast will help make packaging more inclusive.

Examples of accessible packaging features

With the above principles in mind, what features indicate that packaging is accessible?

  • Easy opening mechanisms – this can be anything from tear strips through to handles, loops or even pop open designs. Opening mechanisms should not be hard to navigate and should be able to be opened one handed.
  • High contrast print for visibility – for those with visual impairments, the colours you choose on your packaging can have a significant impact. High contrast colours that enable maximum legibility are important. Similarly, the typeface and size of fonts should also be considered.
  • Braille or tactile symbols for those with no or reduced sight – for those with reduced or no sight, Braille or tactile symbols can enable people to navigate a product or parcel, whatever their ability. An example of this is the Microsoft Surface Adaptive Kit which enables users to identify critical keys, ports and cables. Tactile surfaces can also help make some packaging easier to grip.
  • Tactile substrates for perishables – Mimica Touch is an example of a tactile expiry date. It uses a biodegradable gel that is smooth when a product is fresh but goes bumpy when a product is past its best. Ideal for perishables like food and medicine.
accessible packaging

Help making your packaging more accessible

At Macfarlane Packaging, our team can help you optimise your transit packaging to make it more accessible. Get in touch today.