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Shopping: Another Indirect Benefit of The Accessible Internet

Editor's Note: Marcia Cummings is National Secretary of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.

I have always found shopping at a store for anything a stressor. The only times this is not the case are those when I have specific items in mind and can simply walk in and request them. Otherwise, when I want to browse, I have to either beg a friend or relative to accompany me or hope there is a suitably inactive service person at the store who wouldn\'t mind spending some time with me.

Neither is a foolproof method, and therefore shopping has always been stressful for me.

Enter the internet and the many online stores that have sprung up in the past few years.

There are sites selling everything from food to clothes, music to medicine. Not all are accessible, but there are a growing number of them that have made the effort and they have changed my shopping experience forever!

Let\'s compare the old and the new shopping experiences.

I walk into a store with my tentative list of wanted items. My friend, or the store employee, and I begin the tour of the aisles in search of the items.

"Oh, wait," I say. "I just thought of something-do you have this other item?"

Some discouraging remark is then uttered by my guide--"We were just in that aisle-why didn\'t you ask then?" or "I don\'t have all day."

The result?

I give up and buy my original list of items, and make a mental note to find another store to purchase the ones I couldn\'t find that day. I then have words with my friend, if my guide had been a friend, about how frustrating the experience had been.

Now, enter my computer and Amazon.ca or any other accessible online store.

I log in and start searching for my list of items, adding each one to my order after verifying price, format, etc. But then, all of a sudden, I think of another movie I want, one not on my original list.

No problem! I simply search for it and voila! They have it! Into my basket it goes-figuratively! No fuss, no complaints, no stress!

Maybe I even decide to browse and just type in a word or two to start a search. Again, the list of results comes up and I\'m free to explore it and choose something--or nothing.

Some people are concerned about the security of online use of credit cards, but my view is that there is no guarantee that the clerk who hands me my card and receipt in the regular store hasn\'t quietly written down the number for later personal misuse.

In fact, since a detailed explanation of an online purchase is always shown before the order is confirmed, including tax and shipping amounts, I actually get more information through the online method than I am likely to get at a walk-in store. And all this information is in a form that I can read myself--without assistance.

Privacy at last!

There are certain types of items, of course, for which there is no substitute for actually going into a store and examining the merchandise-things like clothing and jewellery.

But for many other items, you can\'t beat the internet. I have browsed and made purchases at many sites, including Ebay.ca, SpeakToMeCatalogue.com and Mint.ca.

There is only one disadvantage to this shopping method-it encourages the impulse buy. But I\'m learning to resist-slowly!