The winding down of the London Paralympic Games represents a perfect moment for designers to reflect on how they integrate principles of universal design into their process. Childhood Hemiplegia is a condition that reduces the brain’s ability to control actions on one side of the body, which can result in limited muscular function, dexterity, and physical sensation. Most people who grow up with this condition innovate clever ways to complete routine tasks, using the body parts with greater dexterity to compensate for those that have reduced movement control.
But one ever-present challenge came to designer Ben Pawle‘s attention: opening a condom wrapper with one hand. For the young and sexually inexperienced – especially when physical limitations may already lead to self consciousness – the activities leading up to a sexual encounter can feel high pressure to say the least. Some hemiplegics expressed reluctance to ask their partners to help unwrap condoms. They expressed a wish to avoid drawing attention to their condition, and to avoid the corresponding interruption of more pressing matters. Ben Pawle’s design challenge had presented itself: a one-handed condom wrapper to promote the dignity of young hemiplegics engaging in safe sex.
His response was a two-layered package, with foil on the outside and a sealed plastic membrane inside of it. A simple snapping motion with one hand is enough to break both layers and remove the condom using two fingers. This innovation in packaging adheres to the universal design notion that good design for the disabled results in better design for everyone. Case in point: we’re pretty sure no one likes to stop what they’re doing in the bedroom to fully dedicate the use of both hands to opening that wrapper.