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Understanding Markets As Online Public Places: Insights From Consumers With Visual Impairments

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing

Carol Kaufman-Scarborough Terry L. Childers


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.


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