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The Design Age Institute of the Royal College of Art (RCA) and the member group University of the Third Age (u3a) have launched an official petition to the British government and parliament. In it, they call for the introduction of an inclusive design standard for packaging. The aim of the initiative is to launch a debate in Parliament on the problem of poorly designed packaging. A recent report by the Design Age Institute reportedly showed that more than 60% of the 2000 respondents aged 55 to 104 found opening packaging a major stressor in the home. Packaging of consumer goods, food and medicines, such as ring pulls, jars, cling film, peelable labels and resealable packaging, appeared problematic.

“It’s dehumanising when you can’t open a pack of bacon or unscrew a bottle and have to ask a neighbour to do it for you,” said Colum Lowe, director of the RCA’s Design Age Institute. Some people, he added, then resort to sharp objects to get at the contents of the packages, which brings its own risks. The Design Age Institute recognised the problem when it tried to create a list of the best products and services for older adults, but ended up finding the opposite, Lowe said.

Unlike the 2010 Equality Act, which regulates barrier-free access to buildings and transport, there is no such provision for packaging, he said. Lowe says the petition will force the government to ask itself why not. With minor adjustments, countless products and services could be made “truly accessible”. To get a government response, the petition must get 10,000 signatures. For a debate to take place in Parliament, at least 100,000 signatures are needed in the next six months. The petition can be signed on the website of the British government and parliament.

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