While pads and tampons are staple menstruation products for many people, for those with vision impairments they can be difficult to access and use. 

Sarah Maculans otherwise independently navigates life with her white cane and guide dog Syd, but finds it difficult to read product packaging on sanitary products.

“I’m relying on either a support worker or my mum to read out the products,” she said.

The university student lives with a condition called nystagmus, which allows her to see in “snippets”.

Sarah says accessible period products would be ’empowering’.(Supplied)

“I kind of explain it to people, like holding a phone screen, trying to take a photo with a shaky hand,” she said.

Ms Maculans said small fonts and poor contrast on some menstrual product packaging were challenging for blind or vision impaired people.

“It used to cause me quite a bit of anxiety and stress just around getting it and finding the right products as well because they’re not accessible most of the time,” she said.

Jordyn Rebers, 19, has similar feelings about period products.

She was born blind and lives with Septo-optic dysplasia, which affects early brain and eye development.

While Ms Rebers can do most things independently, she struggles with managing menstruation, including knowing whether she had her period.

“I find it very hard to know when I’m going to get it, however there are little signs I get such as tummy cramps,” Ms Rebers said.

Jordyn Rebers says she worries about the possibility of leakage when on her period.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

She said she also relies on others to help her find products in stores.

“I would like to be able to find the products and use them more independently,” Ms Rebers said.

Prototype aims to help manage periods through haptic, audio feedback

UK-based design engineer Muna Daud has created a device to help blind and vision impaired people detect and manage their periods.

Ms Daud said her patented prototype uses haptic and audio feedback, and pH strips to identify menstrual blood.

“Users swab the testing area and insert the swab into the device, which analyses the sample,” she said.

Muna Daud’s prototype has been in development for about a year.(Supplied)

“The device then provides feedback through vibrations — three buzzes indicate period blood, while one buzz indicates regular discharge.”

Ms Daud said the prototype, which has been in development for about a year, has an accompanying app to help users monitor their cycle.

“Many women have to depend on the smell of blood or the duration of their cycle to determine their period, which is not always accurate or reliable,” she said.

“Flowsense provides a means to manage their menstrual health independently, which can significantly enhance their sense of autonomy and dignity.”

While Ms Daud is working on securing funding to develop the product and bring it to market, advocates believe there are simple ways to make current period products more accessible.

Queensland University of Technology menstrual health researcher Ruth Knight said introducing Braille and audio cues on sanitary products were among the first steps.

Ruth Knight says introducing Braille and audio cues on sanitary products would improve accessibility.(Supplied)

Dr Knight said more research was needed on accessible period care in Australia.

“It’s down to having empathy for the person with disability, in saying, ‘How can we help you understand what products are best for you, how to get those products with dignity so you don’t always have to ask somebody to go buy them for you?’,” she said.

“Young women, and women generally, are not getting the support to really understand how to take care of their menstrual health. 

“So we need to normalise the conversation and talk about period positivity.”

Ms Maculans agreed, saying accessible period products would be “empowering”.

“Whether that be more contrast, simpler language potentially, or even a QR code that you can scan with your phone to read up about the product,” she said.