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STEM champion fights for accessible food packaging

Accessible food packaging

Jerusha Mather, a PhD student in the medical sciences at Victoria University, is kickstarting a petition to make food packaging more accessible for the whopping 44% of us who have trouble with the current packaging system. She shares her story.

I started a petition for accessible packaging because as I was learning how to cook, I noticed that opening packaging was something challenging and arduous for me. I have cerebral palsy – a condition that makes tasks that involve strength and fine motor skills difficult to complete.

Jerusha Mather

I also found that some adaptive kitchen tools including the one touch can opener and jar openers do not work properly or do not work for someone like myself. And besides, I thought it would be cool if packaging was made for someone like myself.

This plays a crucial part of maintaining my independence and growth by as individual, so I want to make this happen. I know I am not alone in this as several other people have similar difficulties for a variety of different reasons. Statistics show that 44% of consumers had difficulty opening packaging. That is a pretty significant number.

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I think that manufacturers need to work directly with disabled and elderly consumers to create designs that suit their needs. They need to actively take into consideration their feedback.

Getting input from the people who use the products

The federal government needs to create a consultation agency that enables people with disabilities and the elderly population to give manufacturers and brands constant feedback and test their products to create more accessible food packaging.

This includes continuing and / or expanding the practice of selling chopped-up vegetables and fruits (especially the harder or larger ones), and crushed garlic and ginger in supermarkets. This practice is essential and crucial for increasing their independence.

I sometimes worry about my future after my parents pass away. I have experienced trouble having access to support workers in the past. And I have little support outside of parental support at the moment.

To worsen my anxiety, during the pandemic, I heard of some people with disabilities living on muesli bars due to the lack of access to support. I think that is just absurd and inhumane. And this worries/ concerns me. As well as angers and frustrates me.

The bigger picture

If we made accessible food packaging, I could cook a decent meal independently and have some confidence in my future. This will increase my overall health and quality of life. And I am sure many others will join me and experience the positive effects as well.

I encourage you to sign this petition which will influence the food design and engineering industries to consider creating more accessible packaging. Also, you can also write a letter to a local MP and ask for change.

You may also contact your local supermarket (including Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, and / or IGA), brands (to name a few: KanTong, Golden Circle, Cottees, Bega, and / or Ferrero) and/or manufacturers and demand change.

READ MORE: 7 STEM activities for students with developmental disabilities

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