Ieva Eskyte: Disabled Customers and the European Single Market: Challenging Legally Constructed Customer Vulnerability

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) recognises access to consumer goods and services in the private market as essential for full participation in society.

It shapes the concepts of customer participation and market accessibility around social model of disability and does not make a distinction between disabled and non-disabled market participants. Meanwhile, European Union and Member States’ policy instruments do not recognise people with impairments as equal customers. They legally construct them as ‘vulnerable’ consumers and position impairments as one of the criterion for becoming a vulnerable participant of the EU market.

This paper argues, however, that by premising positions and activities on ableism as well as prioritizing non-disabled citizens and customers, the state and the private market play a leading role in constructing people with impairments’ customer vulnerability. It uses empirical evidence from mystery shopping and qualitative interviews from Lithuanian and the UK and employs information provision practices about shops, products and product accessibility as an example to illustrate the case and to question deeper issues of the capitalist market and society. The paper also suggests that disabled people are not passive and helpless observers of exclusion from customer information. Indeed, they adopt a variety of coping strategies and skills to confront inequality and exclusion. The paper concludes by addressing certain elements of Habermas’ communicative action theory and linking it to discursively constructed customers with impairments’ vulnerability.

This event is free and open to all and booking is not required.

Location Details

Room 12.21 and 12.25
Social Sciences Building
University of Leeds

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