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Creating Effective Customer Policies for Disabled People in the Mainstream Private Market

Eskyte, Ieva (2015) Creating Effective Customer Policies for Disabled People in the Mainstream Private Market. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis explores inequality and exclusion of disabled people as customers in the European single market and identifies potential causes of market inaccessibility and opportunities for creating more effective customer policies. The study adapted the concept of the ‘travel chain’ and examined disabled customers’ experience in acquiring customer information, traveling to the shop, navigating retail premises, and interacting in a shop. While the capitalistic nature of and processes in the market prohibit customers from fully exercising customer freedom and choice, for disabled people, customer participation is even more difficult and restrained. Putting forward the experiences of people with impairments gathered through mystery shopping and semi-structured interviews (in Lithuania and the UK) formed the foundation of this research. It was augmented by stakeholders of the European single market for information and communication technology products as well as civil society’s insights gathered through covert observations and semi-structured interviews. This stage of the research investigated the stakeholders’ actual lifeworld regarding disabled customers and market accessibility, power relations among them and access to the formulation of discourse in the public sphere. The presented work has been influenced by the social model of disability, which, combined with Habermas’ theory of communicative action, provided deeper understanding into multiple levels (global, regional and national) of the social, political and attitudinal factors shaping business, civil society and disabled customers’ experiences and realities. A range of overlapping restrictions emerged within discussions about shopping experience challenging legal construction of disabled people as ‘vulnerable’ consumers because of their impairments. They demonstrate how disabled customers’ exclusion is shaped by ableism, as well as the state and business’ focus on non-disabled citizens and customers. The role played by business and civil society’s notions of and ascribed values to disabled customers and market accessibility has been relatively overlooked in the existing disability literature. As well, there has been a focus on the ‘social dimension’ of this issue within the European Union policy context rather than the single market aspect. This study therefore directly addresses the single market dimension and reveals significant tensions between global, regional and national policy instruments. It has also shown how policy frameworks within which the actors operate and certain business’ practices often create further disabling lifeworld in terms of market accessibility and disabled customer equality, in addition to shaping 5 unequal power relations and eliminating certain actors and disabled customers from accessing the formulation of the discourse in the public sphere. This limits availability of accessible products, links product accessibility features with individuals’ ‘accessibility needs’, creates division between disabled and non-disabled ICT users and customers, forbids stakeholders from creating comprehensive and quality knowledge and additionally prevents knowledge innovation and its implementation. Taken together, this all inhibits the assurance of disabled peoples’ rights established in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. By highlighting these issues, the work here argues that cooperative action is needed to address the problem and raises questions about what types of policy framework the European Union and national governments should introduce in order to encourage the private market to take into account aspects of accessibility for disabled customers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Disabled customers; customer rights; accessibility; private market; shopping; EU single market; ICT industry; Habermas' communicative action theory
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr. Ieva Eskyte
Date Deposited: 05 May 2016 09:16
Last Modified: 05 May 2016 09:16
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12911

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