We use cookies to improve your website experience. To learn about our use of cookies and how you can manage your cookie settings, please see our Cookie Policy. By closing this message, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Journal of Marketing Management

For a Special Issue on
The Disabling Marketplace

Manuscript deadline
20 June 2022

Cover image - Journal of Marketing Management

Special Issue Editor(s)

Leighanne Higgins, Lancaster University, UK
[email protected]

Katharina C. Husemann, King’s College London, UK

Anica Zeyen, Royal Holloway University of London, UK

Submit an ArticleVisit JournalArticles

The Disabling Marketplace

More than a billion people, equating to 15% of the world’s population, are disabled (WHO, 2020), and globally hold a disposable income of approximately £1 trillion (PurplePound, 2018). Yet, the UN recently outlined that, “more and more disabled people are finding it difficult to live independently and be included, and participate, in their communities on an equal basis” (Commons Library Briefing, 2020). Furthermore, pre-Covid-19, in the UK alone failure to appropriately cater to disabled customers in the marketplace witnessed monthly losses of £163 million for restaurants, pubs and clubs, £267 million for high street shops, and a mammoth £501 million for supermarkets (PurplePound, 2019). A cost that is only set to rise as many living with disability remain wary of returning to marketplace settings and integrating with potentially unmasked and unvaccinated consumers and staff.

Since the 1990s, a growing body of research investigating marketing, consumer culture and disability has developed (e.g. Baker 2006; Baker et al. 2001, 2002; Beudaert 2018; Beudaert et al. 2016, 2017; Echeverri & Salomonson, 2019; Higgins, 2020; Kaufman-Scarborough 1999, 2001; Kearney et al. 2019; Mason & Pavia 2006; Navarro et al., 2014; Pavia and Mason 2012, 2014). This research has been largely influenced by the social model of disability (Baker et al. 2007; Kaufman- Scarborough 1999, 2001; Navarro et al. 2014; Yu et al. 2015), which perceives the environment and socio-political structures, not one’s medical impairment, as disabling. A strength of the social model is the insight it provides into the “material barriers” and “material inequalities” faced by consumers living with disability (Goodley 2017, p.11). However, the model is not without criticism. Indeed, despite the introduction of regulations in many countries, the prioritisation of materiality and physicality of the social model has resulted in many companies working to meet disability regulations not realities. Furthermore, the social model fails to recognise that consumers living with disability can and do live full, satisfying, lives (Swain & French, 2000), often assuming the disabled community wishes to be able-bodied, refuting the notion that disability can be a proud status and identity-marker (Shakespeare, 2004).

This assumption is a form of ableism, which refers to “ideas, practices, institutions and social relations that presume ablebodiedness, and by doing so construct persons with impairments as marginalised, oppressed and largely invisible ‘others’” (Chouinard, 1997, p.380). Within marketplaces and commercial settings, the presence and often dominance of ableism has resulted in the design of services, architecture and cityscapes for the dominant able-bodied, in turn thwarting consumers living with disability from full participation. Although limited, some work in marketing has begun to specifically employ ableism to understand consumer vulnerabilities. Downey and Catterall (2006, p.127) note, for example, how ableism perpetuates restrictions to markets for disabled consumers so as to prevent disruption of “the day-to-day activities of non-disabled citizens”. Kearney et al. (2019) show how misrepresentations of impairment within advertising perpetuate ableism. Focussing on the ‘We are Superhuman’ Paralympic campaign of 2016, they uncover how the campaign primarily reinforced inability, inadvertently advocating that persons with impairment should surpass normalcy standards. Higgins (2020) adopting a psycho-emotional model of disability (Reeve, 2012) highlights how ableist structures entrenched within marketplace settings can emotionally disable not only consumers with impairment but also the rich network surrounding them (i.e. their family, friends, spouses and carers) causing both those with and without impairment to, at times, self-exclude from the marketplace. These studies thus begin to situate the exclusionary and ableist parameters of consumer culture, largely arising from the antiquated ideology and etymology surrounding the term disability.

Prior to the term disability, the accepted socio-cultural term used was handicap. It was/is a derogatory term stereotyping persons with impairment as being incapable and therefore as both socially and economically unproductive members of society (Oliver, 1990). Still today, the terms ‘disabled’ or ‘disability’ refer to a loss or lack of ability. In other words, one is unable in some way (i.e. impaired) and therefore disabled in totality, and thus depriving those with impairments of a sense of power, agency and value in society. Yet, just as we are all susceptible to vulnerability (Baker et al., 2005), we are all likewise susceptible to disability. Afterall, we are all “temporarily able-bodied” (Goodley, 2017, p.2) and ‘unable’ in particular contexts, settings and times. Disability studies highlights how disability is the only marginalized characteristic a person can acquire at any point in their lives. Yet, entrenching and oft antiquated etymological and ableist notions still dominate socio-historical structures, and indeed permeate consumer culture, and are ultimately a root of inequity, inequality and vulnerability in our marketplace and commercial settings.

Through this special issue, we aim to not only raise awareness of the growing need for future marketing and consumer research relating to disability, but also to map how marketing remains embedded within antiquated models and discourses of disability, often influenced by social and medical models of disability and the societal dominance of ableism. Entitled, the disabling marketplace, we see and define the disabling marketplace as the spaces, places, structures, practices that deprive, de-limit and reduce the agency and power of consumers. Thus, we call for marketing research that looks at disability in new ways, shattering the belief that disability is solely and purely impairment focussed, and showcasing how we can be, and at times are, all disabled by the marketplace. Although we do call for work that will discuss and elevate consumer cultural and marketplace understandings of physical, sensory, cognitive, learning, hidden and/ or visible impairments, we also call scholars to outline the etymological issues of disability, to discuss ableism and (dis)ability-prioritising constructs that can disable beyond those traditionally perceived, categorised and labelled as “impaired”. These could include ageing demographics, carers, friends, spouses or family members, and/ or other demographics currently under or unrecognised as delimited and disabled by our marketplace and consumer cultural forces. Thus, we call scholars to think “non-normatively” (Goodley, 2017, p.2) about impairment and disability in commercial and consumption settings to help us begin to pave a pathway that disrupts the disabling marketplace.

Submissions could include, but are not exhaustive of, the following themes and questions:

  • Greater insight and awareness into the impairment related consumption experiences of persons living with disability.
  • Current understandings of service experiences when living with disability (this could include persons with impairment and/or family, friends, spouses, carers who care for them or join the experience with them).
  • The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumers with disabilities, and/ or how the pandemic may have increased many more to the disabling marketplace.
  • Embodied approaches and theories to better understand disabling marketplaces.
  • Advertising and marketplace populated representations of ability and disability.
  • Useful and transformative methodologies that could help create a better, universally inclusive marketplace.
  • Etymologies and linguistics surrounding ableism, disablism and consumption.
  • Structural forces and practices that delimit and perpetuate marketplace disability.
  • Drivers and barriers to inclusive marketplaces.
  • The transformative potentials of universal designs in consumption and service settings.
  • Hopes and fears for our future consumption experiences – i.e. how will the able-bodied be welcomed in the marketplace as we become older and/ or less able.
  • Useful methodologies to help understand and transform the disabling marketplace.

We encourage scholars to submit their best work to this special issue. We expect this special issue to be well-integrated, cutting edge, and make a major contribution to the rapidly growing discussion within the area of disability, marketing and consumer culture. We welcome creative and collaborative work, methodologies, conceptualisations, and are open to the inclusion and representation of alternative forms of research within this special issue (i.e. videography, poetry, art-based research).

The full Call for Papers including references can be found at the JMM blog site: https://www.jmmnews.com/the-disabling-marketplace/

Submission Instructions

Authors should submit manuscripts of between 8,000–10,000 words (excluding tables, references, captions, footnotes and endnotes). All submissions must strictly follow the guidelines for the Journal of Marketing Management. Manuscripts should be submitted online using the Journal of Marketing Management ScholarOne Manuscripts site. New users should first create an account. Once a user is logged onto the site submissions should be made via the Author Centre. Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript. One should be a complete text, while in the second all document information identifying the author should be removed from the files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees. When uploading files authors will then be able to define the non-anonymous version as “Complete paper with author details”, and the anonymous version as “Main document minus author information”. To submit your manuscript to the Special Issue choose “Special Issue Article” from the Manuscript Type list when you come to submit your paper. Also, when you come to the ‘Details and Comments’ page, answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Is this manuscript a candidate for a special issue’ and select the Special Issue Title of The Disabling Marketplace in the text field provided.

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article