Transformative Topics

Welcome to December's Transformative Topics. In recognition of International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, we feature an article by Carol Kaufman-Scarborough and Terry L. Childers entitled, "Understanding markets as online public places: Insights from consumers with visual impairments." You can find full information for the paper on the TCR website here.

Carol reflects on the paper and the importance of this research topic:  


"Several members of my family and friends have experienced disabilities in a somewhat unfriendly marketplace. It wasn't until I became ill at a conference in Spain that my first-hand discomfort with inept assistance enabled me to "see" their experiences through my own eyes. My research began by studying persons with mobility disabilities and engaging my retailing students in field studies. Soon, my research grew to include learning disabilities and vision impairments, gaining deep insights from the participants. From the mothers with colorblindness who feared giving their children the wrong medicines, to the "ADDers" who bought unintended items when distracted by in-store stimuli, I discovered that consumer research could become truly transformative by including these rich perspectives. My subsequent work examined inclusion and exclusion in the education and retail contexts. And now, I am beginning research about persons who become caregivers to the elderly and the impact on purchase behavior, entertainment, and travel. Fortunately, the online public places can also provide effective retail, entertainment, and virtual travel experiences to those who remain home to care for a loved one."


To find more work on the topic, search the TCR's publication archives, typing a keyword or author into the search box.


Citation:  Kaufman-Scarborough, C., & Childers, T. L. (2009). Understanding markets as online public places: Insights from consumers with visual impairments. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 28(1), 16-28.


Abstract:  More than 20% of the U.S. population is composed of people with disabilities. When such people interact with certain marketplaces, such as commercial Web sites, some become “consumers with constraints,” and others become liberated, experiencing the freedom to search for information independently for the first time. While accessibility in physical stores is mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, commercial Web sites do not fall under its jurisdiction, because they are not considered “public places.” This research challenges this view and examines whether actual consumers interpret Web sites as public places. The authors examine this question in the context of experiences of consumers with visual impairments in online shopping. The authors apply the concepts of consumer normalcy and consumer vulnerability to the technology acceptance model as theoretical lenses through which to interpret this context. The findings form the basis for recommendations to policy makers to develop and enforce standards for Web site accessibility and to the marketplace to create a level playing field for people with visual impairments.



Written on behalf of your TCR Digital Outreach Team

Laurel Steinfield -

Roland Gau -

Shauna Kearney -

Naz Onel -

Jane Machin -


If you have suggestions for articles or topics to feature please reach out to any member of the Digital Outreach Team. 

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