A consumer perspective on hard-to-open packaging

Arthritis Australia’s Consumer Director Wendy Favorito opening Easy To Open certified cereal

As a consumer with a long history of arthritis, I am very familiar with the challenges of opening packaging. I experience the frustration on a daily basis at home, in the community, and at work. The experience of trying to access difficult to open packaging can be physically painful and emotionally degrading, especially when trying to open a daily staple, such as milk, canned food, jars, water bottles or yogurt tubs.

People without a disability often try to empathise with me that they too find packaging difficult to open and in doing so they trivialise the issue.  I challenge those people to imagine what it is like to lose independence as a result of not being able to open food and basic necessities because of the packaging.  I challenge those people to spend a day asking family and friends to open packaging for them to gain a sense of the emotional aspect of breaking through packaging barriers. I say to those people that while they occasionally have difficulty with packaging, people like me struggle frequently throughout the day, including preparing the most basic of meals for my family.

My struggle is most often very public – it occurs in front of family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. In my experience, most people who struggle to open packaging will use tools, teeth or “weapons” before they ask for help. The effort of trying to open packaging using a knife or scissors often causes injuries. For those people who do not have someone to ask for help, they are rendered incapable of opening some forms of packaging or left to wait till a family member or friend might visit and open it for them. My husband often pre-opens packaging like jars for me, so I am able to make a jam sandwich for my children or a cup of coffee, but if he didn’t do these things then it would mean going without.

It is unacceptable that common items are so difficult to open for a large portion of people in our community when some simple packaging solutions exist. I do see some positive changes occurring within the packaging industry and this gives me hope that my independence and self-esteem will be supported as I endeavour to live my life as self-reliantly as possible.

Written by Arthritis Australia’s former Consumer Director Wendy Favorito