World Braille Day is celebrated on the 4th January, not only celebrate how braille has changed the game for many, but also to remind the public why it is so important for millions.
Braille was invented by Louis Braille in 1824 and is still used today on household medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Yet only a handful of beauty brands have invested in redesigning their packaging in a more accessible way. Some companies have even been accused of treating visual accessibility as a fashion statement, with one UK soap company criticised for using braille packaging that wasn’t actually tactile. If you’re going to do it, do it right!
20 year old Jerri Mather has said. She was already partially sighted when she lost a further 30% of her vision in a near-fatal car crash in 2020.
Some brands have however stepped up to include braille or QR codes into their packaging. A brand that the Cohorted beauty experts absolutely love – L’Occitane – have incorporated braille into their packaging since 1997. About 70% of L’Occitane products now come with braille labelling. One of the many reasons why we love this brand!
Cleanlogic is another brand that has added functional braille on its packaging “to help blind and visually impaired individuals lead a more independent life”. This was an easier change once they switched to all-paper packaging which made it possible to print braille on every item. The brand also partnered with the American Foundation for the Blind to make sure the braille they used was accurate.
Herbal Essences also had a redesign in 2019 of the brand’s Bio:Renew line of botanical shampoos and conditioners. The redesigned shampoo bottles feature a row of raised lines on the bottom of the back of the bottle – “S” for shampoo, “C” for conditioner – which while this isn’t braille still makes the bottles more accessible to many potential customers.
Tactile symbols such as these suggest that they don’t need to be highly unusual or expensive. Simple hacks won’t cost the world for many makeup, skincare and everyday products, but would mean the world. Other simple hacks that adapt existing products can also make all the difference such as making the bottles more square-shaped than round so that if the bottle is dropped, it won’t roll away. But for certain products – typically smaller ones like lip pencils – adding braille can be a challenge. To move past this, some companies are trying to implement QR codes for their products either onto the packaging or on their companies sites that would lead to an audio description and ingredients lists.
The best way to make sure that their products are accessible is to bring blind customers into their conversation, by hiring them into the company and having an open channel of communication with not only blind influencers such as Molly Burke, but also other blind customers.