Brad Fain of the Georgia Tech Research Institute displays a glove that simulates arthritis so that companies can make products easier to open.

As anyone with arthritis can attest, opening a pickle jar, a container of instant coffee or a medicine bottle can sometimes seem like a Herculean task. But manufacturers of the products don’t always realize how difficult it can be.

Now researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta have developed a glove that companies worldwide can use to get a better understanding of what their customers with arthritis endure. One in five adults in the U.S. has arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Kraft Foods Inc., the world’s second largest food company, has purchased the gloves for testing its products.

“We used the gloves to verify that the lid on our new instant coffee jar is accessible for those who have difficulty opening jars with regular caps,” said Linda Roman, senior group leader for packaging strategic research at Kraft.

The gloves simulate the limited range of motion that a person with moderate to severe arthritis would have. 

“It’s more difficult to move your fingers,” Brad Fain, the project’s principal researcher, told GlobalAtlanta when asked to describe the feeling when wearing the gloves. “You don’t have as good a grip as you normally have.”

The gloves are an educational tool for companies, said Dr. Fain. “In some cases, it’s very eye opening,” and persuades companies to start working on a redesign of their products, he added.

The gloves are for sale, at $440 a pair, on the GTRI Web site. Customers include pharmaceutical companies and assisted living centers.

Georgia Tech’s Accessibility Evaluation Facility, which Dr. Fain supervises, has contracts with the Arthritis Foundation in the United States, Arthritis Australia and Arthritis New Zealand, to evaluate products using testers who have arthritis.

Once a product is certified as easy to use, companies can include a stamp of approval on the container from the arthritis organization.

Axel Leblois of Atlanta, who heads a United Nations-sanctioned organization, the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Technologies, praises the effort to make products easier to use. It will benefit both the customers and the corporations, he said.

“Accessibility of products and services for persons with disabilities is both a human rights issue and marketing opportunity,” he said. “It is not only a good thing to do for ethical and legal reasons, it’s very good business”.

To learn more about Georgia Tech’s research, click here