ABSTRACT

For many years across several disciplines, academics have studied how people make choices as consumers, whether as individuals or as part of households (see for example, Bettman 1979; Bettman, Luce, and Payne 1998; Bitner 1992; Kohli, Devara, and Mahmood 2004; Park et al. 1981). Their studies examined how consumers form attitudes and beliefs about products, brands, and retail stores, predicting their future consumption choices based on their evaluations. While providing the foundation for models of consumer choice, such studies may also hold an implicit assumption that consumers have relatively equal abilities to make their purchases, to travel freely to retail shopping locations, and to access needed information as they please. As members of a consumer-based society, people quite naturally seek to

participate in its consumer culture and many facets of experience. They seek to create their own identities, to examine and compare products, to feel a sense of belonging and welcome, and to experience companionship as they shop (Baker 2006; Baker, Gentry, and Rittenburg 2005; Hamilton 2009). However, biases based on age, disability, gender, ethnicity, income level, perceived status, and other perceived attributes can erect barriers to consumer participation and form the foundation for marketplace exclusion. As a result, some consumers are regularly underserved, ignored, or excluded on a regular basis from the marketplaces that they seek to experience. Reported disability rates are found to vary dramatically throughout the

world, and responsible agencies point out that the problem is exacerbated by nonstandard definitions and measurement across countries (Mont 2007). Even in the United States, where the proportion is approximately 20 percent of the population, persons with disabilities are found to report discomfort, lack of welcome, and disabling conditions that magnify the impact of their disabilities (Baker, Holland, and Kaufman-Scarborough 2007). As Arnould (2001) aptly stated, “North American consumer culture idealizes certain kinds of consumers and marginalizes others who do not perform to specification” (p. 361).