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Degree Inclusive deodorant
Courtesy of Unilever

Degree Inclusive is the first deodorant designed for disabled people

TextAlex Peters

Standard deodorant packaging can pose a challenge to those with limited mobility, a new product is hoping to be accessible to everyone

From Guide Beauty to Kohl Kreatives, make-up brands designed to be more accessible for disabled people are finally starting to break into an industry which has too often proven extremely inaccessible. Now, a new deodorant created by Degree is coming that has been designed specifically to make application easier for people living with visual and motor disabilities.

Over 60 million people in the US alone (that’s one in four Americans) have a disability, but, until now, the standard deodorant packaging has not been designed with this community in mind – twisting a cap, turning a stick, or pushing down on a spray can pose a real challenge when you have limited arm mobility. Hoping to eliminate some of these obstacles, the Unilever-owned brand has worked alongside a team of design experts, occupational therapists, engineers, and people living with disabilities to develop a product that is accessible for everyone to use. Some features of the deodorant include a hooked design for one-handed usage, magnetic closures to make it easier to take the cap on and off, enhanced grip placement, a larger roll-on applicator, and a braille label with instructions for users with vision impairment. 

“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,” says Aline Santos Farhat, EVP of global marketing and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Unilever. “Yet, we know there are people with disabilities who don’t feel confident moving because they can’t use a deodorant and are worried about sweat. So, it was a natural fit for Degree to address this and to create a deodorant application process that ensures usability for everyone.”

When setting out to make the product, it was important to the brand to work directly alongside those with disabilities to understand what the challenges were with the current designs. After numerous rounds of revisions, it was decided that a total redesign of the bottle, rather than a device that you can add on to the existing bottle, was the best option. Another discovery was that users with disabilities would benefit from a larger rollerball to cover more surface area without additional movement. “It was really all about learning, listening, and evolving as you go – while making sure to work directly with people with disabilities throughout the entire process from start to finish,” says Santos Farhat. 

Degree is currently beta testing the design in partnership with The Chicago Lighthouse, Open Style Lab, and Muscular Dystrophy Association. The brand has invited 200 people with disabilities in the US to trial the prototype and share their feedback on features and messaging to improve the product for its future commercial launch.

In the meantime, Santos Farhat says Unilever is committed to advancing accessible designs across all its brands as well as continuing its Equity, Diversity & Inclusion strategy which, among other things, aims to have 5 per cent of its workforce include people with disabilities by 2025. “While Degree Inclusive is a pilot program for Unilever, we do intend to see long-term change across the portfolio,” she says. “Ultimately, the more inclusive products we see entering the supermarkets and our daily lives the closer we get to a more inclusive and accepting society.  This is really just the beginning, and we’re excited for what’s to come.”

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