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Here’s Why a Popular Health & Beauty Company Prioritizes Inclusive Product Design

It’s been almost a year since P&G-owned Herbal Essences launched inclusive-designed shampoo and conditioner bottles (in October 2018). The first-ever mass hair care brand in North America to do so, the revamped packaging features raised symbols intended to help consumers with low to no vision distinguish products by touch.

So how have customers responded? Sam Latif, P&G’s Special Consultant for Inclusive Design, says inclusivity has been good for business. “We have gained new users based on the positive response we have got from the visually-impaired community and advocates,” she tells AmeriDisability. That’s not a small base of consumers ─ according to the World Health Organization, 253 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired, including 23 million in the U.S. alone.

P&G is working to take accessibility beyond your shower with their own products and by generating awareness about prioritizing inclusion. “We [at P&G] are on a journey. We recognize that designing inclusive products and inclusive services means more people can use them, so we consider inclusive design a force for good and a force for growth,” Latif declares.

Herbal Essences inclusive design bottles.
Bottles feature raised stripes (shampoo) and circles (conditioner).

A Clean Sweep Career Change

Latif is the brainchild behind Herbal Essences’ redesign but she hasn’t always tapped into her marketing mindset. She actually started her P&G career nearly two decades ago in the IT department. A blind mother of three, Latif explains that the motivation to shift jobs came about as she realized accessibility gaps at home and at the office. “The move to accessibility was something I felt I needed to do. I recognized that our company had the potential to better serve people with disabilities, and we needed to intentionally focus on this demographic. Being disabled myself and having a personal passion for accessibility, I felt this was my purpose,” she recalls.

Why start with shampoo and conditioner? Bathing is part one’s daily routine; making everyday tasks less challenging and more enjoyable can boost one’s independence and confidence. Latif used to create bottle distinction with rubber bands and tape. Now Herbal Essences has four raised stripes on the back of shampoos and eight raised circles on the back of conditioners. The decision to incorporate shapes versus braille was intentional. “I saw when conducting research that not everyone can read braille. I wanted the solution to be as inclusive as possible reaching as many people as possible,” she explains.

The hope is that customers connect ‘s’ to stripes=shampoo and ‘c’ to circles=conditioner.

Washing Away Barriers

Only 4% of businesses are actively creating products for people with disabilities, according a P&G statistic. Some companies are prioritizing inclusive design. For instance: Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats launched braille stickers and re-recordable audio boxes so parents “can share messages of love and encouragement with children who are blind or low-vision;” Microsoft developed the Xbox Adaptive Controller intended for gamers with limited limb mobility; and Target created a sensory-friendly clothing line. Obviously, just a few examples aren’t enough. However, Latif says additional corporations are soliciting insight from P&G which indicates more will follow suit. “We advocate that all companies think about inclusive product design and produce accessible services. We continue to be invited by many companies to share the work we are doing, and we’re constantly learning and collaborating with others,” she says.

Companies first should change perspective, advises Latif. “Business leaders, designers and marketers need to experience their products and services as people with disabilities experience them. Next, it is important to include accessibility into the criteria from the outset of any project,” she urges. Also, because “people with disabilities are great problem-solvers and have diverse thinking styles,” Latif suggests, “Recruiting people with disabilities to develop insights and test new solutions can be critical to ensure the right product or service is developed.” Latif believes consumers’ demands for inclusion will continue to increase. “I think my kids’ generation will expect products and services to meet their needs and not just ‘put up’ with less than satisfactory. I think this goes for disabled and non-disabled consumers from this generation,” she says. She hopes company culture as a whole will come to respect disability diversity with the same understanding as gender, race and sexual orientation diversity.

“There was a calling for me to help make the world more accessible and help design better workplaces, products and services for people like me (who have a disability). This sense of purpose encourages me to do what is right and bring insights of consumers like me into the design for everything we do for our workplace, products, packaging and advertising,” Latif says.

The Beauty of What’s To Come

The impact of accessible health and beauty products can be life-altering. For example, women with vision impairment find it impossible to read pregnancy and fertility test results. So P&G’s Clearblue partnered with Be My Eyes, a vision mobile app, so women can immediately know what is happening with their bodies. Herbal Essences and Be My Eyes offer similar support for customers seeking hair care advice.

Of the dozens of P&G brands, Latif admits, “I also love the Tide Pods. Being a mum of three, I have lots of laundry to do and have noticed such a significant improvement since I switched to using the pods – no dosing or spills to clean up.”

TREO is a new inclusive design example.
Gillette TREO simplifies caregiver-led shaving.

P&G most recently designed the Gillette TREO, the first assisted-shaving razor for caregivers grooming someone else (versus self-use razors). Think about how many people this benefits: mothers taking care of their sons, fathers taking care of their daughters, sons taking care of their elderly fathers and wives taking care of their husbands. “We’ve learned that caregivers like using TREO on both men and women, young and old, for those living with conditions ranging from Down syndrome to Alzheimer’s and much more,” Latif shares. [Check out the powerful product launch video here. Note: P&G includes audio description on all television/video advertising.]

Additionally, P&G has been a sponsor of the Paralympics since 2010 and has recommitted for Tokyo 2020; in addition to sponsoring the Special Olympics for more than 25 years.

Do you use another brand and/or product to meet your specific disability needs? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Nancy DeVault is an award-winning writer/editor contributing to local and national publications. Her storytelling spans a wide range of topics, including charity, disability, food, health, lifestyle, parenting, relationships and travel. Married with two kiddos, Nancy describes herself as a lover of the outdoors, fitness, news, traveling and binge reading magazines while sipping coffee.

Nancy DeVault
Nancy is the managing editor of AmeriDisability. She is an award-winning storyteller passionate about health and happiness.

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