Visually impaired woman says soap brand is using Braille as 'fashion statement'

Braille is used by thousands of people who are visually impaired as a way to feel words on a page – but one company has been accused of using it as a fashion statement.

Molly Watt works as an accessibility consultant, helping companies understand how they can make their websites and products suitable for visually impaired, deaf and disabled people.

When Molly, who is deafblind, spotted these bottles produced by Soap Co, she wasn’t impressed.

They have the name of the company in Braille text but Molly says that the bottle she had wasn’t tactile – defeating the point of using the writing system, as people who can’t see, can’t feel the words.

Molly said: ‘So these soaps have “Braille” on however… they’re not tactile…. They literally just have Braille to LOOK like Braille…  #baffled #accessibility #braille #notafashionstatement.’

She posted the picture on her Instagram and Twitter and other people were just as confused about why the bottles featured the text at all if it wasn’t helping the users of the writing system.

Some also pointed out that even if the bottles were tactile, they only spell out the name of the company and don’t give information of what the product is, making it difficult for visually impaired people to tell the difference between hand wash and hand cream for example.

The Soap Co, based in East London with a workshop in the Lake District, use the Braille symbol as a logo to indicate the ethos behind their brand.

They say that most of their workforce is blind, disabled or from a disadvantaged background.

Molly commented on Twitter: ‘The fact they employ people with disabilities does not automatically make them fully accessible.’

She later added: ‘It’s like saying “We use text to say we employ sighted people!” Braille is not a label for blind people, it has to work.’

They said: ‘The Soap Co. is a social enterprise employing people who are partially sighted, blind or otherwise disadvantaged. We are passionate about our social mission to help people with disabilities into work as well as our products that are made using natural ingredients and create a low environmental footprint.

‘We are sorry to hear that the customer has found it difficult to read the tactile dots on our packaging. These are not officially Braille but have been tested and approved by our visually impaired employees.

‘While we don’t make any claims to be fully accessible, we are helping over 80 people with disabilities into work and have created thousands of jobs for disadvantaged people. We do appreciate all feedback, good and bad, and will continue to apply this to our product development.’

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