Improving packaging for you

The Accessible Design Division is focused on helping industry and government understand the abilities of those with functional limitations, like a loss of strength and dexterity, such as caused by arthritis and ageing.

Packaging is increasingly present in our everyday modern lives but sadly, due to poor design and lack of understanding about consumer’s abilities, many packaged items require capabilities that exceed those of the community. To address these issues, the Division works with Dr Brad Fain from the Georgia Tech Research Institute and has already developed world-first guidelines as well as other testing services which allow the packaging industry to understand the broader communities’ abilities.

Improving food packaging in the health system 

Improving portion-controlled food packaging in the health system has been another important project for the Division. Within the hospital environment portion-controlled packaging is increasingly prevalent. The packaging can often require a high level of strength and dexterity to open which many patients will not be able to do. This can in turn contribute to malnutrition, which can impact complications and the length of hospital stays.

According to a 2014 Tasmanian hospital study,
only 1-in-3 patients who experienced difficulty opening packaging asked for assistance, making it critical consumers receive packaging they can open.

To address this issue, the Division worked with the NSW government’s patient support service organisation HealthShare NSW and Georgia Tech, to test products that were available in the hospital system. From this work the Division has tested hundreds of portion-controlled items which are given an Accessibility Rating, that then allows the packaging to be compared in our Packaging Accessibility Rating Database. This assists those purchasing the products to know how easy or difficult patients might find the packaging. The Database is now also used by Health Purchasing Victoria and the Institute of Hospitality in HealthCare’s (IHHC) members, who are food service managers involved in making purchasing decisions across Australia’s health system. This project aims to encourage manufacturers to produce packaging that patients can easily open and be rewarded for this innovation.