I am travelling with a totally blind diabetic, and a cooler full of beverages (soda). Most of the beverages are diet, but a couple have sugar to treat low blood sugar. The blind person must be able to search in the cooler and find a sugar soda without assistance.

How can the beverage cans be marked so that a totally blind user will be able find one that contains sugar?

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    How does the blind person marks drinks in their home? Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 18:05
  • The sugar ones in the refrigerator are on the door and upside down. If still in the package, they are in separate area of the pantry. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 23:47

16 Answers 16


Buy drinks with sugar in a non-can format. If there's a bunch of cans, plus 2 plastic bottles, that's easily distinguishable.

What this avoids is having to try each can in turn to see if it has a rubber band or string or whatever. The instant you grab something, it's obvious if it's a can or bottle, which is important when you're having a medical emergency, are blind, and need to plunge your hand into icy water to check each one. It also avoids various failure modes where the marker falls off or breaks. No matter what happens, a plastic bottle is not going to turn into an aluminum can.

Note that these are usually a different size. (20oz vs 12oz.) There are 12oz bottles for sale, though you might need to try a couple stores.

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    "How can the beverage cans be marked?" That's the wrong question. How can a blind diabetic find the life saving sugar they might need? This; the no-fail version, +1.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 2:06
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    As a diabetic I endorse this answer. While thankfully I am not blind, it should be noted that during low blood sugar thinking can be impaired and the less movements and choices I have to make, the better. As a side note, as a diabetic I don't care for the taste of the beverage so I usually just keep a can of soda in my backpack and/or near bed, instead is having to lurch to a freezer.
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 11:46
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    Won't guests play with the rubber bands, potentially removing or moving them?
    – piojo
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 5:56

Just a simple thought: you could use a little piece of string tied to the hole in the tab to mark the odd ones out (that's less work than marking 90% of the cans). Like this (it's Friday afternoon, so I have no soda can available):

beer can with string tied to hole in tab

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    Good call marking the odd ones. Had not considered the string solution +1 Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 12:39
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    This is an excellent suggestion. It might even be worth leaving a longer length of string and affixing it to the outside of the cooler with an easily detached piece of tape. That way you can simply trace the string down to a can rather than spend time digging through cold ice feeling the tops of the cans.
    – jmbpiano
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 22:28
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    A twist-tie would be faster to install and easier to feel than a string. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 16:01
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    You should actually mark the ones based on the fail-safe principle. (That does happen to be the odd ones, from the sound of it.)
    – ikegami
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 4:38
  • Another similar idea: a small cable (zip) tie in the same place. Remember to remove any of these before recycling
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 12:15

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) for an insulin dependent diabetes is a medical emergency, consuming sugar is a matter of life and death.

The cans containing sugar should be marked, if the marking comes off, accidentally consuming a sugar beverage instead of diet, is much less life threatening

Place a rubber band around the center of the sugar soda cans. It holds up well submerged in melted ice. It can be reused multiple times. It is very easy to feel. A larger rubber band can circle a can a couple of times. Occasionally they do break so make sure there are always a couple of them in the cooler.

This is the current solution used by my blind companion, but there are some interesting ideas we had not considered in the other answers.

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    life and death, +1. But rubber bands can come off too. How 'bout if it has sugar, it's in an aluminum can; otherwise it's a plastic bottle. You have my permission to salt the earth with plastic while you're the absentee guardian of a blind diabetic.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 2:19
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    This requires informing all the party goes to be safe. I could see a guest taking a bottle, noticing a rubber band, and thinking nothing of it, replacing it on another can. You would not want them to do that. I suggest adding this to your answer, because you do not want a life and death label which is removable and which people love to fidget with.
    – piojo
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 6:08
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    @piojo Almost any solution is going to require the cooperation of all people present. Quite apart from anything else, they need to know not to drink all the soda. Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 14:31

There are many good answers here. I'd use that old lifehacks fallback: duct tape. Just wrap a band of duct tape around the middle of every soda that includes sugar. It will be an easy, tactile way to identify cans containing sugar.

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    Masking Tape or Painters Tape has an easily detectable feel and will stay on cans in a wet cooler, but can be removed for recycling. (According to a recent Planet Money, metals are still definitely worth recycling.) - I know tape lasts in this scenario because it's a convention at parties in my group that we all put blue-tape on cans or plastic cups, and write our names on them in Sharpie (permanent marker). Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 13:53
  • Or packing tape; that doesn't come off of anything. If I had beer and soda, this is what I'd do to prevent them opening a bunch of beers just to find a soda. Just do a rumply job of putting it on... as if that won't happen anyway. You're still salting the earth with plastic (fumes) but at least 95% of the aluminum will be recycled.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 15, 2019 at 22:06

Braille labels are available — some of them are made specifically for cans.

Cando labels

A blind person without the help of a sighted person can take advantage of the difference in density between diet and sugary drinks. Diet sodas cans float in water; regular soda cans sink.

  • The reusable braille labels are interesting, but the price is not listed on the web page so presumably they are unrealistically expensive. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 9:38
  • @JamesJenkins What do you mean? They're $24 per dozen. They're certainly pricier than duct tape or other improvised markers, but you can get very specific about the contents of the can without relying on arbitrary ad-hoc conventions. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 9:55
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    Argh, I'm about to pass out from low blood sugar. I'll just go find a bucket of water so I can see which of these cans floats. Oh dear, I'm unconscious on the floor. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 12:01
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    @DavidRicherby totally agree. In any case, that's a hack for a diabetic who is blind, alone, and in an unfamiliar place. Not for the person trying to make a fridge friendly for them! But +1 for the braille labels. Reusable is good.
    – Artelius
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 12:27
  • @200_success I did not find that page not sure how I missed it, seems interesting. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 17:45

Is it beyond the realms of possibility to just put the sugar containing drinks cans inside a plastic sandwich bag, ziplock, whatever and tie the top? 2 cans in plastic bags in the cooler doesn't matter if you can see or read braille or not. Foolproof and safe, and you will be able to recycle/reuse existing plastic bags and thus save a dolphin.

  • Simple, reusable, and effective. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 9:43
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    This adds a barrier to use, and any extra time the user needs to remove the bag could cost them precious seconds in an emergency. Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 16:48

if the cans come in a linked 6-pack, cut up the "linker" that ties them together and leave it on the ones you wish to mark.

Or, bend the pull tab partway up on the ones you wish to mark.


Put the sugary cans in a plastic tub inside the cooler.

For example:

Deep plastic tub Drink compartment

A huge benefit to this method is that the person doesn't have to feel the cans one by one. Just find the tub. You need to use an appropriate shape to reduce the risk of cans rolling in or out.

You can stick a label onto the top/side of the tub to remind others not to put other drinks in it.


Use a different sized can

A standard treatment for low blood sugar is typically around 15g of carbs whereas a standard soft drink (soda) can has around 38g. In Australia we have multiple can sizes including 200mL which has about 20g of carbs. That works well for me. If smaller cans are available where you are, you could ensure they are exclusively full-sugar.

This depends, of course, on what protocol the person uses for treating hypoglycæmia.

200mL can


Use rubber wristbands

They don't need to have anything written on them. They're just prettier than rubber bands or duct tape. You could also put a message on them (the person's name perhaps) to stop them being drunk by others.



when planning for emergencies try to make the protocol very easy (were the ones with a thread sugar free or with sugar?) ...

Some totally crazy ideas:

  • get two coolers! one for the blind person close to them, so it is easy to find.

  • all of you drink sugary drinks, no confusion, all are happy (sugar replacements are allegedly cancer inducing anyway)

  • get another source of sugar that is easily digested (have no experience, dextrose maybe?)

  • mixing up some answers: attach a metal or plastic braille plate with duct tape to each can (you can reuse them on the next trip)

  • cable zip ties could help too instead of a string.

  • contact beverage manufactures to include braille code in the can, like you have on medicine boxes. It could be on the bottom, top or walls. non-blind people might even start reading braille if they are exposed all the time.

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    As I recall, most blind people, especially those who became blind in adulthood, don't actually read Braille. Braille on the can walls would weaken them and probably cause ruptures. And diabetics can't drink sugary drinks the whole time. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 11:49
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    This really shouldn't be one answer. Two coolers is a good idea; only supply sugary drinks is a terrible, terrible idea since the goal is to avoid hyperglycemia.
    – chepner
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 13:28

Requiring no additional resources, and better than @niels-nielsen's suggestion (which risks breaking the tab or seal by pulling):

Rotate the tab 90 degrees for the desired type of drinks. The top has a recess in which the tab sits that a blind person can use as the reference.

Note: if a blind person can read braille, they can easily detect the recess and the orientation. The tab is also non-free spinning; it requires moderate effort to rotate to a position, where it will stay until rotated again, so it will not accidentally move back.

beverage can top - from Wikipedia
We do that to distinguish otherwise identical beers in the locker room after the game: L, C, R.

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    This is good in most cases, but for a diabetic experiencing a low blood sugar it might be problematic, it requires to much thought. Low blood sugar impacts cognitive function. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 9:41
  • @james-jenkins, am not diabetic or blind, so perhaps unfair to comment on cognitive impairment effects, but then twist the non-sugary ones; if it won't open, it's the wrong one; grab a different one. Other proposed solutions would require equal or greater cognition (and more resources - braille labels, zip-lock bags, string, tape or must have a linker)
    – Ian W
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 9:49
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    @IanW If you can't easily tell by feel that the tab has been turned, this is a non-starter. Trying to open the can and failing isn't good enough, because the blind person needs to be able to identify non-sugar cans for regular drinking without wasting sugar cans. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 11:57
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    I doubt this would be very reliable; the tab could get turned back too easily.
    – chepner
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 13:29
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    In an emergency, the recognition needs to be instant. Wasting any amount of time can be extremely detrimental. The blind person needs to know 100% what they are getting, without any caveats that take extra cognition to recognize. Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 16:53

Ideally, you'd use a device that can make Braille labels. As an alternative, there are devices that make embossed labels - but you'd have to agree on what encoding to use (e.g. 3 dots for drinks with sugar, one dot for no sugar).

  • Using Braille S for sugar and D for diet is good but what kind of Braille label is going to hold up reliably to swishing around in melt water and/or condensation? We have a Braille label maker that use the tape like in your link, they tend to fall off paper, leta alone a cold, wet aluminum can. Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 13:50
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    Of the ones listed that are Self-adhesive none are rated for water or cold exposure. This would be great if plausible. Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 14:36
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    Most blind people don't read Braille, especially people who have become blind as adults. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 11:52
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    This is just overengineering. The OP's question only ever makes sense if the diabetic knows in advance the cans are marked in some way. A random blind diabetic is not going to rush to your cooler and start feeling the cans in an emergency. So you can choose a simpler, lower-effort solution.
    – Artelius
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 12:59
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    @gerrit that works great if you are at home. Every try to buy pre-frozen reusable ice packs on a cross country road trip? Related outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/21986/4079 Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 10:11

This answer is based on two already given but too much for just a comment.

Mark all cans (as given in @Glorfindels answer) but use different kind of string for with and without sugar. Cotton against wool will already do.
Add a tag to the end of the (short) string, many kinds of plastic can be cut into usable tags. You only need a way to tie the string to it.
Many kinds of plastic will allow you to add some braille to it, a few characters at least and if you hit the right kind of plastic maybe enough to write the whole name of the drink. (This part is based on @Hobbes answer.)

To make it easy for the seeing users of the cooler, use different colours for the string as well. Like red wool for sugar containing drinks and white cotton for those without, so when picking out a drink for your companion, you can see immediately which category you catch.

  • This needs to be instant recognition. If you are in a life and death situation, you aren't likely to be able to tell the difference between wool and cotton by feel. Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 16:55
  • @computercarguy, people who are blind and have been for a while will not get confused. But you can make a bigger difference, thin cotton against bulky wool or even paracord.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 17:00

Consider another option.

Use glucose tables for the quick treatment of low blood sugar. Chew it into powder and keep it under your tongue for quick absorption.

He should have talked to his Dr about it. It is a standard part of managing the disease.

Diet... Exercise... Meds...

It's cheap. One can break a tablet into 1/2 or 1/4 depending on the Blood Sugar Level.

Here is a link to a site that sells it. Pretty much all drug stores carry it.


  • While this is one of several viable alternatives, it does not really answer the question. If you want to leave the answer you should consider finding a reference or two that supports it as being the safest and/or fastest solution. Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 12:58
  • It is. I practice it myself.
    – EvilTeach
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 13:16

To add another 0.02, I'd use a pair of pliers to apply a small twist deformation to the rim of the can (at some position that won't touch the mouth or the nose)

This can be easily felt, cannot be removed (like stickers, rubber bands etc), manipulated by a guest (an ocd type who will reset all the rotated ring pulls), is quicker to apply than other manipulation resistant methods (tying string) mentioned and is more discreet (no one will take notice of can damage, but they might mess with a rubber band)

I'm not sure whether I'd mark the sugary cans or the non sugary ones; it's for you to decide I guess. This method can't be undone by accident and I find it likely that a blind person would be able to feel the difference between a can that had been twisted with pliers versus one that had a damaged rim from being dropped so really you're asking whether it's better to mark the sugary ones because if you miss one then you have a sugary drink that will be ignored (isn't a hyperglycaemic bomb) or mark the diet ones because they're low in number and you're highly unlikely to mark a sugary one. The fail safe will be based on your confidence in the accuracy with which you can complete your task of marking the cans plus how likely you think accidental damage could be mistaken (if you mark all the sugary cans and someone damages a non sugary in the exact same way then you risk hypoglycaemia instead of hyperglycaemia; it's easier to treat hypo than hyper because sugar is more widely available than insulin). Personally I think I'd mark the sugar ones.

ps; I say pliers but actually any device with a slot in it just wider than the width of the can (think of a very small spanner) could apply a twist. Additionally your fingernail, back of a knife etc would be able to make a repeated crease in the shoulder of the can (where the can widens out after the rim then transitions to a vertical cylinder) that could be felt, and cans would also be quite likely to survive the rim or base (where it contacts the desk) being dented with a pattern (such as three in a row) that could be applied by any sharp, hard object such as car keys or even the rim of another can (thus marking two at the same time)

In this latter case of getting more adventurous with deforming the can, maybe make it the sugar free ones you damage, as it's a lot less sticky if you have to clean up after bursting one. They take a lot of punishment in transit though so I think you'll be fine if careful


How to mark beverage cans in a cooler for a blind person?

When in Rome do as the Romans do!

When traveling with the blind do what the blind do! Read braille. One the bottom of the can put a drop of krazy glue on the bottom of the can. Keep in mind what the number of dots mean. There is enough room on the bottom of a can for up to 10 +/- dots. Put the code to memory of on paper in your memory is not good.

  • Can bottoms are concave. It seems like if you tried this it would just puddle in the lowest point. It would also be easy to confuse with stray glue from the packaging process. I know I have found glue on my cans that I got out of boxes. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 17:23

Why would you want to store an emergency sugary drink in the cooler? The last thing you want to do close to hypoglycaemic shock is to expend the calories for heating a drink to body temperature and have your stomach cramp up and not let it pass. Just place it somewhere obvious outside of the cooler.

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    Do you have any references supporting the theory that some of the sugars will be converted to energy before reaching the blood and brain? Some (20%) of the sugar will be metabolised by the brain and converted to heat, but I would be interested in research showing that there is a significant difference in glucose uptake based on drink temp. It is in the cooler so it is easy to find. It may or may not be needed on any given day, a round can rolling around that you have not seen for a while is hard to find. We do have some in other places, but this question is specific to those in the cooler. Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 11:26
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    New related question How does fluid temp impact glucose uptake in hypoglycemia? Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 13:08

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