The Effect of Container Shape on Readability and Functional Tasks Related to Prescription Label Access by Persons with Visual Impairment

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Amy B. Curtis

Second Advisor

Dr. Dae Kim

Third Advisor

Dr. Amy Freeland


Vision loss, medication management, prescription drug labels


Problem: Older adults and those with visual impairment are at increased risk for adverse drug events from misreading prescription drug labels. Decreasing the need to manipulate the container to read the label is being suggested as a potential mechanism to increase label readability, though little empirical evidence exists. This study examines the effect of container shape on label readability among those with low vision.

Methods: A convenience sample of 37 adults with reduced visual acuity are recruited to perform medication management tasks with four different shaped containers (flat, box, small and large cylinders): reading the label for information, entering the telephone number of the pharmacy into a phone and interpreting dosage instructions. Repeated measures analysis of variance and generalized estimating equation analysis are used to evaluate the effect container shape, age and vision on outcomes.

Findings: Three way interactions between container shape, age and vision are found to affect time to read the prescription drug label (Wald Chi-square=63.511, df = 15, p<.001), number of reading mistakes (Wald chi- square=226.361, df = 15, p<.001), and time to enter the phone number (Wald chi-square=95.494, df = 15, p<.001). Adults age 65 and older with legal blindness need more time to read the label (Wald chi-square=11.655, df = 1, p = 001), more time to enter the phone number (Wald chi-square=6.116, df = 1, p = 013) and make more reading mistakes (Wald chi-square=5.331, df = 1, p = .021) compared to participants under age 65 with low vision. Age was found to statistically significantly affect the accuracy of the phone number entered (Wald chi square=8.405, df = 1, p = .004).

Conclusions: Participants with legal blindness needed more time to read labels and dial the phone, and made more reading mistakes, compared to participants with low vision. Container shape had more effect on those with legal blindness than those with low vision. The interaction of container shape, visual acuity and age makes it difficult to recommend one container shape for all participants.

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