Shopping is a common human activity. It gets us out of the house and mobilising. It helps connect us to our neighbourhood. But the shopping experience of people with vision impairment is another matter. They are limited to familiar places where they can confidently and independently purchase what they need. This means there are no spontaneous shopping choices. So is this good for retail business and the private market?
The “blind district” of Lithuania is a place created during Soviet rule. It provides fertile ground for research on this topic. It also allows comparison with other parts of the city and the differences in shopping experiences by people with vision impairment. An article published in the Journal of Public Space covers the history of the blind district, disability rights, participation in the market and urban accessibility. The second half of the article is where the research project appears. A novel approach to this topic.
The title of the article is, When Accessibility of Public Space Excludes: Shopping experience of people with vision impairments. by Ieva Eskyté, University of Leeds.
Abstract The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) recognises access to consumer goods and services in the mainstream private market as essential for full participation in society. Nevertheless, people with impairments rarely enjoy the same rights and consumer experience as non-disabled individuals.
This paper argues that (in)accessibility of public space is an important factor shaping how accessible the private market is for people who do not ‘fit’ conventional norms and standards. It demonstrates how category-driven accessibility provisions in some geographical areas and not in others segregate disabled people within certain providers, create social and consumer isolation, and become a marker that accentuates difference and separation between disabled consumers who live in accessible districts, and the rest of the population.
To illustrate the case, the paper uses empirical evidence from mystery shopping in retail outlets and qualitative interviews with people with vision impairments who live in the ‘Blind district’ in Lithuania. The district was developed by the Soviet Union (1949-1990) to boost people with vision impairments’ participation in the socialist labour market economy.