The modern phenomenon of heat-sealed plastic packaging, also known as blister packs, shows little or no sign of abating.
In the mobility sector badly designed packaging can cause problems for many older and disabled people. It’s not just difficult to open it is potentially dangerous too.
At Welwyn Garden City-based charity HAD’s equipment centre many of the smaller mobility aids are packed so tight an able-bodied person would struggle to break into them unscathed. For a one arm amputee or someone with arthritis, MS or a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema, it can be almost impossible to open these products.
Jonathan Hill is one of HAD’s Occupational Therapists:
“Heat sealed packaging is an industry problem and not the fault of one manufacturer. However, it’s ironic that in our sector all products need to be easily accessible, and at the moment they are not.
“Disabled people need help not hindrance when buying mobility products and they are not getting it from some mobility product suppliers.”
Jonathan is also concerned that many people might destroy the packaging in order to get the product out.
“I am worried that there might be problems taking the product back if it wasn’t right for them.
“I know that some disabled people can ask a family member of carer to help open the product but at HAD we try to promote independent living and these problems with packaging hardly promote our ethos.”
However it is not all bad news. The Multi Grip by Able2, formerly Pro Medics, is an example of good, thoughtful packaging. The plastic cover has a wrap-around design that is simple to unclip from the back. Others like Culinaire’s One Touch can opener and a kitchen paring knife by Zyliss are difficult to access.
Culinaire and Zyliss have acknowledged there are problems with their packaging and are currently addressing this.
A spokesperson for their designers and manufacturers DKB said:
“Whilst the Culinaire One Touch and Zyliss Paring Knife packs are great at point of purchase and are suitably robust to stand the rigours of being in store on a peg, we have already noted it can be difficult for those with limited hand mobility to open them.
“With this in mind, we have undertaken a packaging refresh. The new packaging for the One Touch is a blister front with card rear, held together with three simple to open adhesive pads. It will start to appear in stores early in 2017. The Zyliss Paring Knife packaging is currently under review and the new design will be launched in late 2017.”
Whilst this is encouraging news this global infatuation with plastic packaging needs a drastic re-think. It’s a problem for everyone and has far – reaching ecological implications too. Perhaps it is time for manufacturers to come up with an alternative to plastic, not just for us but for future generations.
HAD enable older and disabled people to lead an independent life and have been doing so for almost sixty years. Their main services are:
Equipment centres in Welwyn Garden City and Hillingdon providing a huge range of mobility products and advice;
A 24-hour accessible transport service;
A driving centre providing assessments and lessons and
Information and advice.
For more information on HAD visit www.hadnet.org.uk or call 01707 324581.