How to deploy Accessible QR (AQR)

Alice Barrow, Accessible QR Programme Specialist

285 million people around the world live with moderate to severe visual impairment. For them, shopping is a whole different experience. With AQR, you can give your visually impaired consumers back some of their independence. In this article, we’ll tell you how.

It can be difficult for the 285 million people worldwide with moderate to severe visual impairments to use new or even established products. From identifying a product on shelf or in the cupboard to reading the instructions or contacting customer service, the product experience for those with visual impairments can vary substantially from the experiences of the majority of the population. 

Accessible QR codes can help those people to find, understand and use products, while unlocking some of the £274 billion of spending power held by those with disabilities in the UK. In 2022, we worked with Zappar to enable Unilever to be the first to bring this ground-breaking new technology innovation to market.

Spot the difference- what’s in an Accessible QR?

An Accessible QR code (AQR)

The Accessible QR code may look to the lay person to be very similar to the standard QR code, but it includes an additional D3 code – a series of dots and dashes that sit around the outside of the standard QR code. 

Who can use accessible QR codes?

  1. Anyone who has no visual impairment and is able to scan the QR code as normal with the camera on their smartphone.
  2. Those who are blind or visually impaired that can scan the code from a distance using the Microsoft Seeing AI app, BeMyEyes app and Envision app (more accessibility apps will follow).

How do accessible QR codes work? 

When the Accessible QR (AQR) code is scanned using either Microsoft SeeingAI, BeMyEyes or Envision, the smart phone will be able to detect the QR code at a distance of 1.2 metres away – that’s more than 5 x the scanning distance of a standard QR code. 

Being able to scan at this distance means that the smartphone can detect the code in the shopping aisle, or even in a cupboard at home and will voice-guide users to the product while providing category, brand, format, variant, ingredients, benefits, allergy and other important information, all using text to speech software.

The app can also detect multiple codes simultaneously in the camera view which can support the user choosing from multiple products on a shelf or in a cupboard, all appearing within the camera view. 

See how AQR codes work with Persil

3 ways CEC can support you in making your products more accessible

  1. The first step to creating an Accessible QR code is to define your AQR strategy clearly. You need to ensure your code pack position, code size, call-to-action, landing page and pack design are all optimised for accessibility. This can be complicated, but CEC can help you with this by providing insights based on experiences from products already in the market to help you get these things right first time.
  2. Then you need to connect the codes so that the correct AQR code corresponds to the correct QR code, and the correct product. CEC have tools to generate an Accessible QR code. This code is then linked to a standard QR code and the relevant product SKU.
  3. Finally, we ensure the resulting combined code is formatted as an SVG and locked to the correct size, ready to be displayed in a prominent position on your packaging. We then use our unique tools to help you run essential quality control checks to ensure your QR codes are set up properly and will deliver the customer experience you are looking for, which is critical when using multiple AQR’s linked to multiple SKU’s.

AQR – More than just a convenience

The inclusion of an Accessible QR code on pack can transform the shopping experience for those who are visually impaired. A simple grocery shopping trip can be a daunting endeavour for the visually impaired, but the Accessible QR code gives the individual independent access to product details for the first time. For food goods, this could include cooking instructions, vital allergen information and dietary restriction information. Of course, the benefits of this information being easily available stretch far beyond convenience, they reinstate a sense of autonomy. 

 AQR unlocking ‘product-as-a-service’ experiences for brands.

Of course, the information provided upon an AQR code scan isn’t limited. It’s possible that these QR code scans could provide a service by delivering ‘how to style’ tips, or recipes as well.  

AQR is particularly useful when launching new sustainable product innovations where consumer education is important. It’s often only at the point-of-use that consumers tune in to the product and so the ability of a brand to prove its worth in those few seconds can literally be make or break. AQR helps this become a winning moment with fast and easy delivery of genuinely useful content. 

When integrated into apps like BeMyEyes, AQRs can provide real-life video assistance from either trained volunteers or a brand’s customer service assistants to help people get the most from their products. The volunteers or assistants could help consumers to understand what they could cook with the ingredients in their fridge and walk you through the steps involved in cooking that recipe. 

Accessible QR and BeMyEyes can also provide virtual AI assistance – offering the same service using artificial intelligence visual recognition. With scan rates higher than 4%, product-as-a-service experiences like this really do provide real value to everybody – the brand, the business and the consumer- a win, win, win situation.

AQR codes also offer extensive potential within the healthcare sector. AQR codes on prescription or over-the-counter labels could provide vital medication information, such as allergens, dosage instructions and how to safely combine medications. This capability is a real game-changer for pharmaceutical manufacturers. The opportunities don’t end there either, AQR could even be used to help remind people to take their regular dosage or even to monitor dosage over time, and potentially even prompt prescription re-orders.

A future of possibilities for AQR  

AQR codes offer promise and potential for the future with technological advancements and evolving product digitisation reshaping the consumer market. The integration of AQR codes will continue to enrich user experiences and further deepen brand engagement. With a commercial model set-up for scale, it’s up to brand owners to test, learn and optimise, and to explore just how this exciting new technology increase the value they offer their visually impaired users.

If you would like to learn more about how we could help you then please contact

Written by Alice Barrow, Accessible QR Programme Specialist

Alice began her career as a Connected Packaging Intern at Unilever, working with global brands in the beauty and wellbeing sector. She recently graduated after reading Law at the University of Exeter and has since joined CEC to champion and lead inclusive user experiences, making packaging information accessible to all via the innovative Accessible QR Code. 

CEC Overview

For more than 4 years, CEC has been helping clients quantify the true potential of their Connected Packaging. From revealing the true business case for Connected Packs to establishing the infrastructure and helping clients scale, CEC’s talent, tech and data insights are helping businesses better understand consumer behaviour when they have the product in their hands. 

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