To better satisfy the needs of the visually impaired in North America, the International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking (IADD) has created “Can-Am Braille,” a set of guidelines and recommendations for the use of Braille on pharmaceutical packaging.
The IADD worked in conjunction with the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) over the past 18 months to develop the standard. Officially set for release on Friday, May 8, at the 2009 IADDFSEA Odyssey Show in Atlanta Can-Am Braille has been reviewed and received its final approval by the IADD Executive Committee and Board of Directors in January 2009.
“The use of braille in packaging will continue to increase over the next several years,” predicts Stephen Brighton, IADD Braille Task Force Chair, “following European pharmaceutical and food product packaging trends in Europe.” Manufacturers in Canada and the US are “already being told to meet European standards” to be able to supply to Europe. This increasing influence over the past few years has affected converters and toolmakers. Braille labeling means they have “had to go through a learning curve” to meet demands.
“Some pharma companies are requesting adherence to the ECMA Euro Braille standard (Marburg Medium) and others are allowing variations to exist because the cartons aren’t going into countries that fall under the EU regulations. As a toolmaker, we have seen braille being placed anywhere on the carton panels with a variety of dot diameters, dot spacing, character spacing, and line spacing.”
“It only makes sense that a uniform method for consistency is to be used,” he says. He underlines the importance it means to the IADD and BANA that companies achieve consistency to benefit the visually impaired.
So, developing the “Can-Am Braille” guidelines for pharmaceutical cartons was a logical step. Brighton said the standard would help ensure firms in North America and Europe “follow similar guidelines.” He continued, “From a North American perspective, it’s got to be done on a voluntary, pro-active basis before government gets involved.”
When asked why the IADD chose to base its standard on a European one, Brighton elaborates, “There is nothing about Braille that we can hold autonomous. We have had the opportunity to collaborate with BANA to marry their knowledge of Braille with our knowledge of what’s practically possible when applying Braille to paperboard substrates. What we are really dealing with is the independence of the visually impaired. Our responsibility is to ensure that their independence is respected and that we, as an industry, do the best that we can to produce pharmaceutical, fast food or other types of paperboard packaging with the best quality Braille for readability and continuity through the use of the standard. Otherwise the purpose of producing the Braille and the resources it takes in these economic times ends up being an exercise in futility for everyone involved.”
“We are looking forward to the implementation of this standard.” said Judy Dixon, chair of the Braille Authority of North America, “It will have the effect of making more Braille labels to help blind people identify the packages in their everyday lives and this will be a very positive step forward.”
Interestingly, no government legislation similar to that of Europe is currently proposed in the U.S. or Canada that would require pharmaceutical packaging to include braille. The original concept of creating a North American standard stemmed from a Braille workshop and discussions at an IADD Can-Am Chapter meeting. Some members had participated in a braille workshop at the IADD Annual Meeting in Switzerland in November 2006. It was felt that a proactive approach on the part of industry to develop and implement its own standard would be a way of reducing or even eliminating legislative intervention. This has allowed the standard to be developed in a time frame that fosters continuity, making it more of an international standard, and that ensures it will work from a practical standpoint.
PharmaBraille Can-Am braille font is now available from PharmaBraille. The font set includes the Braille characters set by the Braille Authority of North America and incorporates changes to the European standard requested by BANA.
Author: Stephen Brighton, VP – Die-X Limited, IADD Braille Task Force Chair