Inclusive product design

2020 is finally upon us and the last decade has seen an increase in awareness of discrimination, environmental issues, and the admonishment of things that just aren’t cool. We’ve seen progress when it comes to the acceptance and inclusivity of folks of different races, shapes, sizes, sexualities, and genders - but there is still a way to go to improve our acceptance and representation of those with disabilities. 

That isn’t to say there is no awareness at all. There are a few examples of true inclusivity in the media and fashion world such as Brisbane-born international model Madeline Stuart1, and Aaron Phillips2, a trans disabled model from the USA, but there is a notably meagre representation of the disabled in the space of advertising and product design. A study3 conducted in the UK reported 62% of respondents feeling uncomfortable with seeing those with disabilities in advertising. 52% of these respondents also said people with physical disabilities are adversely stereotyped, and finally:

Two thirds of respondents with an actual disability believe society tries to ‘sweep them under the rug.’

We don’t often think of the daily routine of a person with disabilities. When we see ads for makeup, skincare, clothing, and tech we don’t often spare a thought for those who can’t see their makeup or for those who are unable to pull the zippers up on the latest pair of trendy knee-high boots. While these problems don’t inspire a sense of impending doom that environmental issues do, designing a more inclusive product can only make those who have been left out for so long feel so much better — and often the product ends up being better for everyone.

Small, thoughtful aspects of product design can make the lives of those with a disability just that much easier, so this has been a part of NueBar's design and core ethos from its inception. Not only is NueBar free from palm oil, petrochemicals, irritants, artificial fragrances, and hormone-disrupting chemicals — NueBar is pH balanced to match the skin and hair and inclusive of a fragrance-free range specifically formulated for those with sensitivities — our range also features simple, elegant elements that make life easier for those who are physically non-typical: an embossed letter on the bar denoting its usage, and the lack of a plastic bottle to dispense the product.

The embossed letter, while it may seem merely aesthetic to us, can help those with vision impairment use the correct product for the correct application. They can feel “F” for face wash, “S” for shampoo, or “C” for conditioner and be reassured that they have the right product. Although these letters will eventually wear off, by the time they do people will have either created a system or familiarised themselves with the smell and texture of the product sufficiently to know what goes where. The absence of a plastic bottle to open also makes it easier for those with cerebral palsy or similar disabilities to use without requiring the dexterity necessary to open and squeeze a bottle. We have customers already who use NueBar specifically because of this feature. As the solidified nature of the products also means no spillage, people with Parkinson’s can be reassured that they won’t waste their product or create slippage hazards in the bathroom. 

At its core NueBar is designed for body and planet, and we would not live up to this purpose were we to overlook all that inhabit our world. All it takes is some small, elegant, and thoughtful design elements to create something that includes everyone, especially those who are overlooked the most. And guess what, being thoughtful around the inclusivity and usability of a product often ends up making it better for all!




Hero image:

Aaron Phillips – disabled model. Photography Zora Sicher. Styling Zara Zachrisson.