Dental hygiene practices of the visually impaired 

How do they understand and access packaging

The paper presents the contextual studies done with the visually impaired to document their difficulty in understanding and accessing packaging.
Visually impaired, blinds, dental hygiene, inclusive design


Design for change, design for need and design for people are the slogans often employed by design schools to emphasize the purpose of design. However, for a student to comprehend the larger meaning of these slogans, an empathy-based approach towards identifying the real-world problems, needs to be cultivated. The aim of this study was to foster empathy among students by exposing them to the world of visually impaired people and to discover ground realities beyond the world of sighted people.

India has more than 5 million individuals with a disability in seeing. The activities that appear simple and routine for sighted people may pose challenges for visually impaired. One such activity, of brushing teeth to maintain dental hygiene was identified. 16 visually impaired participants from varied socio-economic status across various locations in India were interviewed to understand the obstacles and challenges they face in performing this task. Data were collected by conducting semi-structured interviews in the user’s environments through one-on-one interaction.

Study reveals current practices adopted by visually impaired for maintaining dental hygiene, obstacles faced, ways to cope, how they navigate around these obstacles and the resultant behaviours. It also shares student’s experiences of conducting the study and how it enhanced their sensitivities towards perceiving design problems.

While addressing the needs of the larger population, conscious inclusion of the visually impaired people not only broadens the scope and challenges of the design act but makes it more inclusive/universal. This study helped students inculcate the true meaning of those slogans in design pedagogy.

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Mandar Rane
Prof. Mandar Rane
Communication Design
Faculty, IDC, IIT Bombay
Prof. Purba Joshi
Product Design 
Faculty, IDC, IIT Bombay
Mandar Rane

Digital Illustrations:
Unmesh Nayak

Tracing artworks:
Prem Sonar
Communication design students: 
Contextual studies: Santanu Dutta and Rajan Barnwal 

Product design students: 
Contextual studies: Amey Damjee, Govind R Nair, and Krishna Kiran.