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ISO Standard Takes the Lid Off Accessible Packaging Design

Building in product accessibility, thanks to ISO 11156:2011

Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 10:16

(ISO: Geneva) -- Any of us can find some packages or packaged products tricky to open. Such difficulties can be worse for the elderly, or people with disabilities. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is contributing to a solution in the form of a standard for designing packaging that is easier to use for the elderly, the people with disabilities—and the rest of us.

ISO 11156:2011 “Packaging—Accessible design—General requirements,” provides a framework for packaging design that takes into account the varying physical and sensory capabilities of users to ensure that the package can be used not only by people with visual, hearing, motor or cognitive disabilities, but also by the elderly, the temporarily disabled, and by those with no disability at all.

The standard complies with ISO/TR 22411:2008 and ISO/IEC Guide 71:2001, aimed mainly at designers and evaluators working in the field of standardization. It can also be used by manufacturers, laboratories, service providers, educators, and others.

Each of the standard’s design considerations or recommendations is based on ergonomic principles necessary for increasing accessibility in designing packages and packaged products, encountered in all aspects of the packaging such as information, identification, handling, opening, removal of contents, storage, separation, and disposal.

The accessible design of packages is a worldwide concern because it allows everybody to use them safely, comfortably, and with satisfaction, irrespective of age, perceptual and cognitive ability, level of physical functioning, language, and culture. The issue of accessibility has become more important with the increasing percentage of older persons in the world’s population, and the high prevalence of disability or limitations in this demographic group, as expressed in the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

“Around the globe packaged products are used by increasingly older individuals,” notes Dr. Ken Sagawa, convenor of the working group that developed the standard comments. “What’s more, globalization results in the circulation of packages across borders, causing problems due to differences in language and culture.

“This standard, and some related standards to follow, will help a greater number of individuals to use packaged products without the restrictions often imposed by age or disability or national differences,” he continues. “The economic benefit is that products developed using accessible design will be able to be purchased by a wider range of people, including older persons and those with disabilities, who are now a significant proportion of consumers with potential buying power.”

ISO 11156:2011 was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 122, Packaging, working group WG 9, Accessible design for packaging. It costs 80 Swiss francs ($98.83). It is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store.


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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. View the ISO Standards list.