Call for Coles, Woolworths to fix 'extremely challenging' problem

A disability activist has revealed that her campaign to get supermarkets to change their packaging is moving forward following talks with Coles and Woolworths.

Jerusha Mather’s campaign, which aims to convince major supermarkets to change their product packaging to be more disability-friendly, has over 13,500 signatures.

Ms Mather, who is living with cerebral palsy, is passionate about advocating for changes in product design, to allow those living with disabilities more freedom to use common supermarket products independently.

“Opening jars, tins and bottles requires a significant level of strength, if you do not have these physical capacities like me, opening these would be extremely challenging,” she writes in her petition.

Jerusha Mather. Source:
Jerusha Mather loves to cook, but finds it difficult opening packages. Source:

In a recent update to her campaign, Ms Mather has revealed that she met with Coles Diversity and Inclusivity representatives.

“They said they'd deeply consider my ideas. If they implement some of my suggestions, it could be a game changer,” she said.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, a Coles spokesperson confirmed staff had met with Ms Mather recently.

“Our Diversity and Inclusion Manager and a representative from our Own Brand Responsible Sourcing team met with Jerusha recently to understand more about her concerns and discuss some of her ideas,” the spokesperson said.

“We appreciate advocates taking the time to help educate us so we can make more inclusive packaging choices for our customers.”

Storefront view of Coles supermarket. Source: Getty Images
Jerusha said Coles seemed very receptive to her ideas. Source: Getty Images

The campaign, which is flooded with comments from people living with disabilities, encourages those signing to contact their local supermarket to discuss this initiative.

Woolworths follows suit

Ms Mather told Yahoo News Australia that she has also been approached by Woolworths representatives to undertake similar conversations about disability-friendly packaging in-store after she reached out to the supermarket giant.

A spokesperson from Woolworths has told Yahoo News that they are grateful for Ms Mather’s feedback.

“Across our stores we aim to provide a range that caters to the needs of our diverse customers,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re grateful for Jerusha’s feedback and would value her input on how we can improve packaging to meet the needs of more customers.”

Woman putting groceries in trolley outside a Woolworths store. Source: Getty Images
Woolworths contacted Jerusha to arrange a discussion a week after the activist's discussion with Coles. Source: Getty Images

“We have contacted her to arrange a meeting and express our apologies for not doing so sooner,” the Woolworths representative said.

“We want to create positive, convenient experiences for our customers, and we welcome feedback on any packaging that isn’t user-friendly.”

The spokesperson concluded their statement by discussing the packaging design process.

“Along with our suppliers, we take a range of factors into consideration when designing packaging, including ease of opening, food quality and freshness, and sustainability,” they said.

Cans and bottles laid out on a table. Source: Getty Images
Other people with disabilities have commented on the campaign online, sharing their own struggles with current supermarket food packaging. Source: Getty Images

The Acting Executive Director of Australia Nic Holas, has told Yahoo News that is proud to be supporting Ms Mather with her campaign.

“We are glad to see supermarkets respond to community expectations by engaging with Jerusha, and hope for better outcomes for people with disabilities,” Mr Holas said.

“Jerusha's petition demonstrates fantastic community support for her campaign.”

"We wish people with disabilities didn't need to turn to our platform to make the world a fairer and more accessible place,” he said.

Disability inclusion ‘should be ongoing’: Activist

Ms Mather has spoken to Yahoo News about what the campaign means to her.

“A lot of people have trouble finding good support workers,” Ms Mather said.

“If the products are accessible by themselves, people would be able to carry out tasks on their own and not depend on anyone for assistance.”

Coles and Woolworths on signs. Source: Getty Images
Ms Mather said she remains hopeful that changes will be implemented in the future. Source: Getty Images

Ms Mather said that she believes that supermarkets and manufacturers should work with people with disabilities to create accessible packaging and products.

“We all have different needs that should be catered for, it should be ongoing,” she said.

“This is what we want at the end of the day: an equal opportunity and world where everyone can meaningfully participate.”

“I think my story and the campaign really touched their hearts and they sounded very optimistic about making changes regarding accessible packaging,” she said.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states that 1 in 6 people in Australia are living with a disability.

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