PhotoIt is said that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. It remains to be seen what happens if you build a better pill bottle.

Two students at the University of Cincinnati (UC) believe they have done just that. They have applied for a provisional patent on their design and prototype of a prescription-medicine pill bottle for the blind and visually impaired – an innovation they say could benefit millions of users.

Students Alex Broerman and Ashley Ma say their design is intended to have universal appeal but to fill the special needs for the more than 1.3 million Americans who are legally blind as well as those who suffer less-severe vision impairment. As the baby boomers age, it’s expected that the number of American suffering from blindness will increase 70 percent by the year 2020.

A cap that won't get lost

Among the innovations, the lid is on hinges that flips open. The reason? Lost caps are a problem for the visually impaired. And twist caps can be a challenge for the elderly. At the same time, the students’ flip lid is child proof, just like standard pill bottles.

Another difference is a small rectangular bottle body, 2-by-2 inches wide and 3-inches tall, that allows a user to easily reach in and pick out a pill or two without the need to pour out a larger supply into the palm for subsequent selection of the required dosage. In addition, this “stout” design prevents the bottle from tipping over and spilling the medication.

The students also added a distinct texture on the bottle’s flip lid. There are eight distinct textures available. Each distinct texture would correspond with a different medication. Importantly, the distinct textures are not Braille, as only 10 percent of the blind and visually impaired can read Braille.

The lid also has a dramatic, deep color – different medication differentiated by a different-colored lid. The reason for this is that many visually impaired individuals do have limited sight, such that they can make out a strong color that is close to the eye.

Audio label

As a “fail-safe,” there is an button on the lid that consumers can press for an audio label describing the medicinal contents. According to Ma, one key advantage of the students’ design is that it is low-tech, simple and inexpensive, especially  compared to currently available options for the visually impaired.

“Options that are currently on the market are more expensive and complex, dependent on technology and requiring a more expensive outlay on the part of the end user to purchase them,” she said.

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