Living without disabilities, for many, means taking certain seemingly simple tasks for granted. When's the last time you put on your antiperspirant and actually thought for a moment how challenging that action — something you do each and every day without obstacle — might be for someone else? So perhaps it's because so many of us without disabilities haven't considered the needs of those who have them that it took so long for a mainstream drugstore brand to finally design something long overdue: a deodorant made to be accessible for those with a visual impairment and upper-limb disabilities.
Unilever has partnered with a team of design experts, occupational therapists, engineers, consultants, and people living with disabilities to create Degree Inclusive. Unlike conventional deodorants — which often involve twisting a cap, turning a stick, or pushing down on a spray nozzle — this new personal-care innovation is built with features that make it much easier for those with upper-limb disabilities and visual impairment to use.
That means a hooked design for one-handed usage, magnetic closures for taking the cap off and on more easily for those with limited grip or vision impairment, enhanced grip placement for easier application for those with limited grip or no arms, a larger roll-on applicator to reach more surface area per swipe, and a Braille label including instructions.
For author, journalist, and disability rights activist Keah Brown, who has limited use of one of her hands and was involved in the Degree Inclusive project, this is a more-than-welcome step in the right direction — especially since Degree made an effort to be as inclusive in the process as they are in the result.
"I'm really excited that Degree took the time to let us be a part of it," Brown tells Allure. "My hope is that other personal-care brands will jump on board because it’s truly an untapped market. That, and we deserve the ability to feel comfortable and prosper with our personal care as well."
As for the experience using the product itself, "the biggest difference for me is that I'm able to comfortably hold the deodorant and apply it evenly instead of having to do multiple swipes to get everything," Brown says. "With this new deodorant, I can get it all in one go, which I love."
That's exactly what Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Beauty & Personal Care at Unilever North America, is hoping to hear from those who try Degree Inclusive, and it's what drives the company to make this project become a reality. "Unilever will not settle until we ensure all of our products are accessible to anyone who wants to use them," she tells Allure. "When it comes to deodorant, we saw that across the beauty and personal care industry, there is currently no deodorant designed specifically for people with upper body disabilities or visual impairment to use."
Bracey tells Allure that Unilever is currently completing a beta program for Degree Inclusive to engage and get input from people with disabilities — a process that has already taken over a year so far. "We've invited 200 people with disabilities in the U.S. to trial the prototype design and give their feedback on its concept, product features, and messaging, to help improve the design for future commercial launch."
So while the official launch of Degree Inclusive is not yet set, Unilever's intentions to make its products more accessible to those with disabilities certainly are. Hopefully, this also sets in motion more product development like this the entire personal-care industry.
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