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October 11, 2018 09:00 AM

Herbal Essences is debuting an innovative and inclusive new shampoo and bottle design in honor of World Sight Day.

The haircare brand recognized that people with vision impairment often struggle with everyday tasks that others may take for granted, needing to come up with special systems to help them identify the color of their clothing when getting dressed, discern one dollar denomination from another and even decipher which bottles contain which products. So the company decided to create a special etched design on the bottom of their shampoo and conditioner bottles (lines for shampoo, dots for conditioner) to ensure those with visual impairment could easily tell one from the other without any additional help.

To make sure they approached the program correctly, they turned to Sam Latif, the Special Consultant for Inclusive Design at Procter & Gamble, who lost her sight at 16 years old, to be the creative force behind the new bottle. “I have spoken up about just one of the daily challenges people with disabilities experience every day and am so delighted the Herbal Essences really ‘got’ the problem and wanted to solve it,” Latif told PEOPLE.

The markings on each bottle are found towards the bottom using universally identifiable shapes (like lines and dots) instead of Braille, which Procter & Gamble discovered through their research was only known to a limited number of people who were blind.

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Before the new etched packaging, Latif had needed to purchase shampoo and conditioners in different scents to identify one from the other and spent “hours” marking bottles with an elastic band or a sticky dot with a friend to guide her as she “put the right marker on the right bottle.”

“If I didn’t have someone around to be my ‘eyes’ and help me, this process could take me days,” she explained. “Of course I often forgot which was which and ended up sometimes conditioning or shampooing my hair twice, which was frustrating.”

Even shopping for her haircare products could be a challenge: “A few times the person helping me in the store gave me two bottles of shampoo instead of a shampoo and conditioner — something I didn’t discover until I was home. Being faced with going back to the store when you can’t drive, or when you can’t read the receipt to find the right one to [exchange it for] is troublesome,” Latif said.

Now, Latif says she feels such a “sense of joy when [she] can touch and tell the stripes are shampoo and the dots are conditioner,” she said.

“Knowing for the rest of my life I will never experience his challenge again makes me feel so independent,” Latif added. “It is a small but very meaningful step towards independence and increased confidence.”

Latif hopes that her endeavor with Herbal Essences will ultimately inspire other beauty brands to make similar changes to their own packaging. “For a long time I would overcome my daily challenges in my own way. I would not share with companies the problems I had using their products. I think it’s a good time to start the dialogue. We need to open the eyes of businesses to let them understand that people like me struggle with certain aspects of their products,” she said.

“I feel really truly blessed that I have had this amazing opportunity to create something that I know will help millions of people,” Latif added. “I hope this helps to create a conversation so that other companies will realize how much of a difference small changes can make.”

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